For by grace you have been saved
through faith… (Eph 2:8)
HAVE you ever wondered why it is through “faith” that we are saved? Why doesn’t Jesus just appear to the world announcing that He has reconciled us to the Father, and call us to repent? Why does He often seem so distant, so untouchable, intangible, such that we sometimes have to wrestle with doubts? Why doesn’t He walk among us again, producing many miracles and letting us look into His eyes of love?
The answer is because we would crucify Him all over again.
Isn’t it true? How many of us have read about miracles or seen them for ourselves: physical healings, unexplainable interventions, mystical phenomena, visits from angels or holy souls, apparitions, life-after-death experiences, Eucharistic miracles, or the incorrupt bodies of saints? God has even raised the dead in our generation! These things are easily verified and viewable in this age of information. But after witnessing or hearing about these miracles, have we ceased to sin? (Because that’s why Jesus came, to end the power of sin over us, to liberate us so that we could become fully human again through communion with the Holy Trinity.) No, we haven’t. Somehow, despite this tangible proof of God, we fall back into our old ways or cave in to new temptations. We get the proof we seek, then soon forget it.
A COMPLEX PROBLEM
It is has to do with the our fallen nature, with the very nature of sin itself. Sin and its consequences are complicated, complex, reaching even into the realms of immortality the way that cancer reaches out with a million tentacle-like growths into its host. It is no small thing that man, created in God’s image, then sinned. For sin, by its very nature, produces death in the soul:
The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
If we think that the “cure” for sin is small, we need only gaze upon a crucifix and see the price that was paid to reconcile us to God. Likewise, the impact that sin has had on our human nature has literally shaken the universe. It has corrupted and continues to corrupt man to the degree that even if he were to look upon the face of God, man still has the ability to harden his heart and reject his Creator. Remarkable! Saints, such as Faustina Kowalski, witnessed souls who, even though they stood before God after their death, blasphemed and cursed Him.
This distrust of My goodness hurts Me very much. If My death has not convinced you of My love, what will? …There are souls who despise My graces as well as all the proofs of My love. They do not wish to hear My call, but proceed into the abyss of hell. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 580
Jesus took this devastating blow to humanity upon Himself, by taking on our human nature and “absorbing” death itself. He then redeemed our nature by rising from the dead. In exchange for this Sacrifice, He offers a simple solution to the complexity of sin and fallen nature:
Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. (Mark 10:15)
There is more to this statement than meets the eye. Jesus is really telling us that the Kingdom of God is a mystery, freely offered, which can only be received by the one who accepts it with childlike trust. That is, faith. The central reason the Father sent His Son to take our place on the Cross was to restore our relationship with Him. And simply seeing Him is often not enough to restore friendship! Jesus, who is Love itself, walked among us for thirty-three years, three of them very public years full of astounding signs, and yet He was rejected. Someone might say, “Well why doesn’t God just reveal His glory? Then we would believe!” But didn’t Lucifer and his angelic followers gaze upon God in His glory? Yet even they rejected Him out of pride! The Pharisees saw many of his miracles and heard him teaching, yet they too rejected him and brought about his death.
The sin of Adam of Eve was in its essence a sin against trust. They did not believe God when He forbade them to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That wound remains in human nature, in the flesh, and will so until we receive new bodies at the resurrection. It manifests itself as concupiscence which is a desire to seek the lower appetites of the flesh rather than the higher life of God. It is an attempt to satiate our inner longings with forbidden fruit rather than with the love and designs of God.
The antidote to this wound which still has the power to lure us away from God is faith. It is not a mere intellectual belief in Him (for even the devil believes in God, yet, he has forfeited eternal life) but an assent to God, to His order, to His way of love. It is trusting first of all that He loves me. Second, it is believing that in the year 33 A.D., Jesus Christ died for my sins, and rose again from the dead—proof of that love. Third, it is clothing our faith with works of love, deeds which reflect who we truly are: children made in the image of God who is love. In this way—this way of faith—we are restored to friendship with the Trinity (because we are no longer working against His designs, the “order of love”), and in fact, raised up with Christ into the heavens so as to participate in His Divine life for all eternity.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. (Eph 2:8. 10)
If Jesus were to walk among us in this generation, we would crucify Him all over again. It is only by faith that we are saved, cleansed from our sins, and made new… saved by a relationship of love and trust.
And then… we shall see Him face to Face.
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