August 08, 2010
A rich businessman was getting old and he wanted to turn over his business to the most competent successor. So he called in his three sons and gave them $10.00 each with the instruction: “There is a big dark room upstairs. Use this money to purchase anything that will fill it up. He who fills up the room with the $10 is the winner, and will take charge of the family business when I retire.” The eldest son went out to the farm and bought lots of hay with his $10. He managed to fill up only a quarter of the room. The second son bought tree branches and twigs worth $10, but he was able to fill up only half of the room. The youngest son just went to a nearby store and spent 15 cents only. He returned the change to his father and showed him the room. The once dark room was now filled with light coming from the small candle that he bought. He took over his father’s business.
This Sunday, the Lord talks about faith. Faith is both a virtue and a gift that has been traditionally described as light in darkness. When everything seems dark and uncertain, faith gives the person a reason to hope steadfastly, to wait patiently and trust firmly. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews gives this classic definition: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Such was the case with Abraham, the father of nations, a man of faith.
In the order of dignity, love is the most important, but in the order of knowledge, faith comes first. The virtue of faith is defined as a supernatural habit or disposition of the mind by which we firmly believe those things to be true which God has revealed. In short, faith opens or enlightens the mind to God’s own truth. If we want to love God, we must know Him first. And in order to know God, faith is necessary. St. Augustine said, “There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither hope nor love without faith.” In the Gospel, Jesus refers to the light of faith: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” The faithful servants kept their lamps burning because they believed their master will come at a time no one expects. Faith, then, is an essential element in our active readiness for the Lord’s second coming.
During these times, we can see that what many among us neglect the most is our faith. In this world so immersed in materialism and egoism, seldom do we see people who are really serious about the practice of their faith. We take our job and career seriously. Nothing is wrong with that. We even take football games seriously! But that can hardly be said of our faith. Sunday Mass is a good indicator. The rapidly dwindling number of parishioners coming to Mass on Sunday compared to the sellout crowd in baseball games or in parks and shopping malls is proof that faith has been relegated by many to the back seat.
This is quite alarming, especially when we listen to the words of the Lord in the Gospel today: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” We have received the Christian faith as a gift from God. He entrusted us with this light, and He expects that we will keep our lamps burning brightly. But as we see it, the contrary is what is happening.
The crisis that the world is undergoing is a crisis of faith more than anything else. The economic crisis, global terrorism, dirty politics, ecological disasters and many other problems in the world are simply the fruits of man’s increasing alienation from God. The fact that people are losing their true faith and even pushing God out of their lives is what causes all these problems in the world, and even in the Church. This has been acknowledged by the Church long before these unfortunate events happened. On June 29, 1972, Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome, Pope Paul VI stunned the world with the words: “From some fissure the smoke of Satan entered into the temple of God.”
According to Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the chief Vatican liturgist during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, the “smoke of Satan” refers to liturgical abuses. In an interview in Rome on May 16, 2008, Cardinal Noe said: “In that denunciation, the Pope meant to include all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn’t render worship to the Lord by celebrating badly Holy Mass because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dross in the name of creativity, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One.” In view of these abuses, the recent Instruction of the Church warned that priests “ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, March 25, 2004, no. 31).
As we always say in classic Theology, “Lex orandi, lex credendi” – The law of prayer is the law of belief. Many priests and bishops commit such liturgical abuses due to pride and lack of faith in the sacred mysteries they administer. This crisis of faith even among the clergy has led to other serious problems, such as in particular, the sexual abuse scandals. That is why, Pope Benedict XVI, again on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul this year, asserted that the “greatest danger” to the Church is not external persecution. He said that the Church “suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face.” The Church is damaged and weakened from inside because the Christian faith is polluted and infected by the “negative attitudes” of the world.
This situation is really frightening, and the words of Jesus should lead us to examine ourselves seriously: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8). We received the gift of faith. We bear the light of Christ. Once and for all, let us take our faith seriously. Let us always come to Church every Sunday punctually and dressed properly. Let us pray more fervently and celebrate the liturgy more faithfully and with true devotion. Let us be numbered among those whose lamps are burning brightly with the pure light of faith, ready to meet the Lord when He comes again.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002