The three theological virtues – Radio Pertinente
Recently on inner lifeFather Michael Hurley joined Josh on the show to talk about the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, how we acquire these gifts and how they enable us to begin to live the heavenly life before you get there.
“We often think of virtue as simply the manifestation or life of something that is uniquely within our control,” Fr. Hurley began. “For example, an athlete will have the virtue of being able to excel in any kind of physical endeavor he finds himself in. Or if someone has some intellectual acumen, he has the virtue of studying or the virtue of being able to understand, discover or discover the academic discipline in which he is.
So when it comes to our spiritual life, we want to gravitate toward that same kind of control with theological virtues. We want to organize them ourselves. And while there are ways to connect with God, know God, and learn more about God through our human strengths and virtues, it is not in our power to determine and practice these virtues without divine intervention.
As Father Hurley said, “They are nothing less than a part and participation in heaven, that is, in the presence of God.” We want to think that our earthly existence is entirely separate from our heavenly existence, but they are intimately linked. We are able to glimpse heaven through these virtues, but they require a surrender of control, humility, and an admission of helplessness. Through this, God will open our eyes to theological virtues.
Every theological virtue is a sharing of some part of who God is. Faith is participation in the knowledge that God has of himself. Faith allows us to know truths that go beyond the realities of the material world. “Faith is the achievement of what is hoped for and the proof of what is not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) It may not immediately appear to our five senses, but faith allows us to access a new dimension of existence, that is, the presence of a loving God.
Father Hurley explained that there are three levels of faith. At the first level, we recognize this God exists. This first level is good, but not sufficient. Even the devil and his demons participate in the first step of faith. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Saint of God! (Mark 1:24)
The second stage of faith is trust in God. It’s not just about believing in God, but believing God himself. “’Do not be afraid, Zacharie, for your prayer has been answered. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.'” (Luke 1:13) “‘How shall I know? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)
The third step in faith is to follow Christ. Reorganize your whole world and your life so that you are perpetually oriented around the will of God. Father Hurley recalled the story of the rich young man.
“’You know the commandments: ‘Thou shalt not kill; You must not commit adultery; you will not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you will not cheat; honor your father and your mother. He answered and said to him, “Master, I have observed all this since my youth. Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him: “You lack one thing. Come on, sell what you have and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; so come, follow me. At this statement, his face fell and he went away sad, for he had a lot of possessions. (Mark 10:19-22)
Hope is the sharing of God’s goodness as our final end. Hope is trust in the word that Jesus gives. As the second step of faith is to trust in God, hope points to the content of that trust; that we will join him in heaven for eternity if we love God with all our heart, soul and mind.
At the Last Supper, Jesus explained that he would be betrayed, put to death, and leave them for a time. The apostles are understandably horrified. But Jesus reminds them of what they hope and trust. “’Let your heart not be troubled. You have faith in God; trust me too. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If there were none, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that where I am you will also be. Where [I] I go, you know the way. (John 14:1-4)
And finally, love (or charity) is participation in the life of God himself. God is to like. We are animated by the life of God. In other words, by giving of ourselves, we allow God to make us “more alive”. The ultimate form of charity is when it ceases to be “me” doing good works for others, but God works entirely through us.
Josh emphasized that it is important to distinguish human love from that divine love we receive from God. Even though we like to think that we love selflessly and unconditionally, it is very difficult to separate our emotional attachment to someone from the benefits we derive from that person. God does not love that way. His life, with which He voluntarily fills us, is entirely born of His goodness. We are not worthy of his love, but he still loves us unconditionally.
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