Stand Alone Pages on 'Musings of an Old Curmudgeon'

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

7 February, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

Religion and Action

1. Jesus says in the Gospel: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) The world was lost in the darkness of error and in the entanglement of vice. Jesus came to point out the only path which leads to truth and to virtue. But He was not satisfied merely to show the way and to preach the truth. There were philosophers who had spoken eloquently and taught wisely on the subject of truth and the virtues. Nobody, however, was able to give men the strength to follow their precepts. Many could have repeated the words of the poet: "Video meliora proboque deteriora sequor;" (Ovid., Metam., VII, 20,21) "I see what it is better to do, but I do what is worse." Jesus, on the other hand, not only taught the way and the truth, but by His grace gave men a spark of the divine life which was in Him. The Christian religion is more than a system of doctrines to be firmly held. It is more than a system of private and public worship of God and veneration of His saints, more than a mere collection of rites to be observed. It should also be a way of life in full conformity with the moral precepts given by Jesus Christ. He is declared to be not only the way and the truth, but our very life, in the sense that He transfuses into us His own divine life by means of His grace, with which we must cooperate generously if we wish to be true Christians.

2. Anyone who fails to correspond with the grace of God is not living the life of Jesus. Without the life of Jesus he is a dead limb, a withered branch cut away from the vine. It is not enough to say "Lord, Lord!" in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, but it is necessary to do the will of our Heavenly Father. (Cf. Mt. 7:21) The grace of God must produce an abundant harvest of good works, no matter what sacrifices this may cost us. Otherwise, God's gift would have been bestowed in vain and before the Supreme Judge one day would be a reason for a terrible retribution instead of a reward. Let us think seriously about this. Has the spirit of religion become reduced to an empty form of belief and ritual action, or are we really living what we believe? Meditate with attention on these words of St. James: “What will it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but does not have works? Can the faith save him? And if a brother or a sister be naked and in want of daily food, and one of you say to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ yet you do not give them what is necessary for the body, what does it profit? So faith too, unless it has works, is dead in itself.” (James 2:14-17)

Even the devil believes, but he is damned forever. (Cf. James 2:19) “Religion pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to give aid to orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world.” (James 1:27).

3. If we wish to be true and sincere Christians it is not enough to believe, nor is it enough to attend the ceremonies of religion. We must act like true Christians. As St. Gregory the Great writes, "We shall really be faithful Christians only when we practice in our actions what we promise in our words." (Homil. 29) Since Christianity is above everything else the religion of charity, it is essential that we should be on fire with the love of God and of our neighbour. As St. Augustine says, faith without charity is the faith which the devil possesses. (De Carit., 10.)

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