Faith => Grace => Love

I recently had a revelation regarding the nature of faith. For many, it is a mere assent, an atomic event of belief. If we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we will gain eternal life. After all, did not Jesus Himself tell us as much? To such individuals, who love the Lord with their souls, works of charity are laudable but not required for salvation. For others, faith is reduced to an intellectual exercise. Surely, if one is well versed and observant of the creeds, councils, and other artifacts of Sacred Tradition, he will be saved. For these, who love the Lord with their minds, there is at least a sense in which faith is a life long pursuit, but even they fall short what God asks in their dry academic studies. Still yet there are those who understand that faith requires love. An attempt is made to love their neighbors. It is an affective love, though, and is often represented by permissiveness and fear of discipline.

They are all wrong. However, like every good lie, they contain aspects of the truth. What is that truth? The Pharisees asked a similar question of Jesus.

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.'” – Matthew 22:35-40 (RSV)

Faith is an active condition (rather than a single choice), by which we receive grace. Grace is what gives us the capacity to love. Thus, to have faith is to love. This is what St. James meant when he said faith without works is dead. If we are not loving, we are not living.

All of the Law, Prophets, and the Gospel can be summarized as Love. Indeed, God is Love. The English language unfortunately ill prepares us to understand this love. We have but one word to express a wide range of concepts. For the purpose of this exposition, however, I will limit myself to the four expressed in the two great commandments: loving God with heart, mind, and soul, and loving neighbor as self. For a more thorough treatment, I heartily recommend The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.

“all your heart”

God so desired to love that He created Man in His image to be loved. Then, becoming a man Himself, He took the Church as His bride. What He has joined, let no man put asunder. Just as we would love a spouse, we should love the Lord, being faithful, caring, and attentive.

We have in this union the opportunity to become one flesh with the Lord. How are we to understand what is meant by becoming one flesh with the Lord? The answer is found in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, wherein we find Our Lord – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Church, consummating the Heavenly Marriage, takes Him into Herself by receiving the Eucharist. We are joined to Him and are impregnated with grace, This grace is not to end with us, however; it must bear fruit. Just as our forbearers were commanded to go forth and multiply, the Lord exhorts us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Holy Trinity, that is, marking them with holy water and chrism as betrothed to Christ. The baptized are the spiritual progeny of Christ and the Church.

“all your mind”

Having given us rational minds and made His creation comprehensible, the Lord desires for us to know Him and His plan for us to know Him and His plan for us. The universe, though scarred by the effects of the Fall, bears the mark of its Creator. Its beauty and complexity, contrary to modern popular opinion, point toward God and reveal aspects of His nature, rather than cast doubt upon His existence. Just as we marvel at the works of great artists, craftsmen, and engineers, we should marvel at Creation. Let us then vigorously pursue knowledge of God’s words and works, His laws, both physical and spiritual.

“your neighbor”

Most people at most times love themselves, at least in the sense that they seek to fulfill their own needs. We all need shelter, clothing, food, and water. There are our corporal needs. We have emotional and spiritual needs as well: affection, compassion, sympathy, forgiveness, hope, joy, etc. The list is quite long, but it reduces to one word, love. God commanded his people, even in the Old Covenant, to love our neighbors as we would like to be loved. This is a great burden and we might be tempted to define “neighbor” very narrowly, perhaps as family, friends or countrymen. Jesus Christ taught how we should have understood “neighbor” all along. That is, al human beings are our neighbors, even our enemies, and the more they are in need, physical, emotional, or spiritual, the more they are deserving of our love. Feed the hungry. Sate the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Visit the imprisoned. Be merciful. Be just. Be meek. Be peaceful. Be like Christ.

“all your soul”

Obedient love must guide the others loves in our lives. There must be no romantic love that is licentious or perverse. Love of knowledge must neither lead us to have any idol before our Lord, nor allow us to establish ourselves as sole determiners of our destiny. Brotherly love must be tempered by discipline, lest we forget who our brothers and sisters are and cease to be their keepers. Man cannot live on bread alone, but on the Word of the Lord.

All love should always be in accordance with God’s will as set out in Sacred Scripture or transmitted by Sacred Tradition and interpreted and taught by the Magisterium of the Church. This is often a difficult task, but it is far from impossible. In fact, the more we try, the easier it becomes; practice makes perfect. St. John Climacus sums it up well in his Ladder of Divine Ascent:

“At the beginning of our religious life, we cultivate the virtues, and we do so with toil and difficulty. Progressing a little, we then lose our sense of grief or retain very little of it. But when our mortal intellect turns to zeal and is mastered by it, then we work with full joy, determination, desire, and a holy flame.”

Let us go now to love and serve the Lord.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

4 thoughts on “Faith => Grace => Love

  1. dlw

    I like the Pietists in that they pointed out that while we are justified by faith not works that works ought to be a natural result of our faith/regeneration.

    I think a further important question is whether we are to strive to be Christ-like or to follow Christ in discipleship? Discipleship is about transforming our habits of thought and action and may include how we deliberate on political action in our given circumstances.

    I think we can both agree that the habits of political deliberation of many USChristians bear a need for renewal so as better to let our lights shine before others as to the power of our faith.

    Sounds like good stuff!

    Slava Boho!(Ukrainian for Praise God)


  2. Jerry Nora

    Great post. It made me think of a post of some comments on the poor by Archbishop Chaput that Mark Shea put up. I’ll try to send the link here later.

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