The Life of Faith
When the Lord who has created us incites us to faith and makes it possible for us to know that it is he who calls, the “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26) is required of us. Only if we believe him can we trust and love him.
First, there is recognition that it is God who calls us, and acknowledgment that he is trustworthy and his word is true and good. This is faith.
Second, there is lively confidence that in responding to him we approach the One whose will it is to fulfill our needs and longings more fully than we could otherwise have imagined. This is hope.
Finally, there is the fullest response, the gift to the Lord of one’s whole self, of mind and heart and strength, accepting his call to membership in God’s family, to friendship in the Trinity and with all created persons. This is charity, or love.
There is an essential link between these virtues. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), and it works through love (Galatians 5:6). In faith, we believe not only what God tells us about himself, but also what he promises us. By hope we look forward with confidence to the fulfillment of those promises, knowing that God is love (1 John 4:7-21).
Infused with sanctifying grace, the theological virtues orient the life of a Christian toward God and love for others. Trusting in Divine Providence, we can be people of hope and act in a way that contributes to building the kingdom of God.
We are called to seek eternal life as one of many brothers and sisters who will inherit the kingdom of heaven (cf. Romans 8:18 et seq.; 1 Peter 1:4-5). Christ holds self-love and forgetfulness of self in perfect balance: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world, will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). It is right to hope for the reward which Christ promises. The fulfillment of oneself in the community of the divine family is the glory of God and the fulfillment of his will (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 32). To hope for the one and for the other is to hope for the same reality, described from different points of view.
Just as there is no real conflict between hoping for one’s salvation and hoping for God’s glory, so there is no real conflict between hoping for heaven and hoping for the redemption of human life in this world. But Christian hope for a better world is quite different from mere optimism. Our duty to our neighbor is a duty in love, and it is equally insistent whether the life of the neighbor, or the life of us, or the life of the human family, seems to be waxing or waning.
The Lord urges us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, comfort the ill, visit, the prisoner, and attend to all human needs. This invitation to charitably serve those most in need as an expression of hope is rooted in a life of faith.
When the structure of this world passes away, the love of Christ remains and, in some way, the good works of humankind in this world remain. Thus, the Christian should not regard life on this earth as isolated from the eternal life to come. Rather, eternal life somehow begins here.