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Classical Virtues vs. Christian Virtues

https://youtu.be/cQ5qZzKQRFk

Note:  This talk has been transcribed digitally and will be edited over time.

Today is Sunday, July 4. And while I’m out for walks on Sundays, I like to try and use the time for meditations that I’d consider more spiritual than those that I normally engage in. Normally, I may talk about political questions or topics in education, but on Sundays, I like to devote my mind to more spiritual questions and topics and try to make good use of the Lord’s day as a day of rest from temporal concerns and temporal work, and treat it as what it’s supposed to be, which is a foretaste of, of heavenly life. Where the troubles and difficulties of this life the curse, on man’s work in this life will cease. referred to in Scripture is a time of rest. And the Lord’s Day is supposed to be a day of rest, arrest from the troubles and anxieties of everyday life. And so I’d like to try to use Sundays to lift my thoughts above temporal affairs, and meditate on more heavenly subjects.

Today, I’d like to meditate on a topic that I’ve been talking about recently. In a talk I published a few days ago, I talked about the natural law and how Christians wrongly seek to promote the natural law or use the natural law as a rule in political discussions, and that that’s really not intelligent to do that, because natural law was destroyed at the fall, and is no longer self-evident to men. It can’t be taken for granted anymore. I explained in that talk that what’s “natural”, in the Garden of Eden, we’re talking about things we read in Genesis one or Genesis two, we talk about nature, we say, oh, God created like this, God did this, God made it like this, we have to acknowledge that a catastrophic event occurred in history, where Adam and Eve disobeyed God. And not only Adam and Eve, but all of their descendants, and the entire world was subject to a curse, or a series of curses. And these curses have made the world in which we live, a very different place, from the original world that God created. There’s all kinds of corruption, all kinds of confusion and distortion. And we have to be very careful when we investigate or meditate on natural things that we do so in light of divine revelation. Because the way that things appear, are not what they truly are. And the light of divine revelation helps us to understand things both as they are at present, how God intended them in the beginning, and how they will be in eternity, after the judgement.

And so these questions of nature, natural philosophy and so on are very complex. Because we’re dealing with “wheels within wheels”, as I like to say, when we look at the natural philosophy of Aristotle or even the moral philosophy of Aristotle.  One of my friends recently sent me a question about something he was reading in Aristotle’s Ethics because it seems that Aristotle was having a hard time reconciling questions of happiness, because we know in history that good men die shamefully. There are times where good men, at the end of their lives, die in terrible circumstances, and it’s hard to explain where happiness can be found when we find examples of good men suffering at the end of their lives.  I explained to my friend that this is an example of where we find the ancient philosophers (Remember, Aristotle was writing 320 years before Christ, maybe more like 350.) scratching on the surface of the Gospel, banging their heads as it were, into a ceiling that prevented them from being able to understand the truth, which only divine revelation makes possible. There are these contradictions in our natural lives that don’t make any sense; that can’t be reconciled.

It’s interesting that in the book of Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament, Solomon reflects on the unhappiness of human life. You may be familiar with the line “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”. That’s from the book of Ecclesiastes. When Solomon, who is a very wealthy King, looks at his life and looks at the lives of men around him, his conclusion is that this is all miserable. Everyone labors and toils and suffers–in vain. It’s vanity, all is vanity, he says, a mere chasing after the wind. But there’s one phrase used throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, that we have to focus on for us to understand what Solomon is actually saying. He says, “under the sun”, he refers to man’s life, “under the sun”, “under the sun”, “under the sun”, all through the book of Ecclesiastes. And what we actually have, is not a judgment on human life, as it truly is, but of human life as it appears. When we don’t pursue wisdom by means of divine revelation, and by the exercise of reason (through philosophy), we judge all things based on appearances, based on our senses. And if we judge all things based on what we can perceive with our senses, human life is miserable. This is why it’s no surprise that as our society secularizes and becomes more and more irreligious, we’re going to find more and more suicide. Because suicide is a reasonable response to the appearances of life, in this world.  If man lives according to his senses alone, it’s perfectly understandable that the conclusion of his observation would be that death is better than life, and suicide, in such a state, is a reasonable and fitting end to a human life. But reason, philosophical investigation, prayer, meditation, and most of all, divine revelation lift us above the sun, as it were. To consider a human life, not in the context that it appears to take place in to our senses, but within the much bigger context, that it actually takes place in which only faith and reason can understand and appreciate the natural virtues getting back to the original topic.

The natural virtues make sense in this life. When we consider our state in this life and our experiences in this life, the natural virtues offer us the happiest life possible.  Considering all things according to sense, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance will give us the happiest possible life and if you don’t believe that, simply try to live without them. You’ll find that the only alternative to the virtues are short moments of pleasure, followed by greater losses and pains. A tranquil and quiet life is the life of happiness in this world. A prudent, just, courageous and temperate life is the only way to live happily, in this life. Attempts to have more, to taste more, to feel more, to smell more, and so on, only lead to greater sorrows. It’s much more difficult to lose weight than it is to gain weight. Once an organ is damaged by excessive drinking, or eating, it can’t be repaired. Unlike children’s teeth, we don’t get a second chance with an organ in our body. The danger is that intemperance and pursuit of pleasure, whatever kind of pleasure it is, ultimately damages the body and causes far more pain than it gives pleasure. And so, if we meditate and are reasonable, we’ll see this and will realize that a virtuous life is more desirable than a life of the pleasures offered by vice. And yet, in the end, we’re still left to agonize as we consider the vanity even of a virtuous life, that it ends with the same fate as the lives of those who live in vice. Both the virtuous and the vicious, are buried in the ground. And death makes no distinction between the virtuous and the vicious.

This led to what’s called “Stoicism” in the ancient world.  Stoicism is a system of philosophy that virtuous men embraced. Almost any virtuous man that you can name in ancient history, had some relationship to Stoicism. Whether it’s Socrates, or Cicero, Seneca, or anyone else. If you liked the movie Gladiator, you’ll remember that the virtuous emperor was Marcus Aurelius. He was a Stoic philosopher. The Gladiator Maximus was also presented as a Stoic. That’s why he has visions of Elysium, the Stoic idea of heaven. But Stoicism basically taught that misfortunes can’t be avoided and therefore, we have to avoid setting our affections on temporal things because we can’t control them. And so, the way to be happy was not to seek happiness through pleasure, but to be content with whatever nature provided, to accept everything that happens, as the best possible outcome, and by meditation, and by the practice of virtue, to train ourselves to always react to fortune with indifference, and to simply focus on our reaction and not the events themselves.

But Stoicism will not make a man fit for eternal life. While it would be good for us to promote the virtues of the Stoic life in society, since it is better than the alternatives, they’re not sufficient for man’s eternal happiness, and men will still struggle with the apparent vanity of human life. the only way that man can live with joy–real joy, not temporary, circumstantial joy, but real, abiding joy–is through the grace of the Gospel, because to the natural virtues (the four natural virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance), God adds three additional virtues, which are supernatural. These three supernatural virtues are the virtues that lead us to true joy, lasting joy that no one can take away from us. And so I’d like to talk about these supernatural virtues because we don’t talk about them much. And I think reflecting on them, will be very helpful.

If you’d like to read about these, I recommend you look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church and go to paragraph 1803, which is the beginning of the section of the Catechism on the virtues. It goes through the four human virtues which are those which I call “classical virtues“. Then, it talks about the theological virtues, which I refer to as the “supernatural” virtues, the virtues that actually make us Christians–the “Christian virtues“.  The three theological virtues are Faith, Hope, and Charity. So, in addition to Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance, Christians must add Faith, Hope, and Charity.

In Christian circles, these are often talked about superficially, it’s just talk, we talk about “having faith”. It’s like Oprah Winfrey religion, we talk about “the power of faith”, and this nonsense that doesn’t make it down into our bodies. It doesn’t make it down into our eyes and ears, and our tongues and our lips and our fingertips, into our muscles. These truths of the Catholic faith don’t trickle down and permeate through every part of our lives and make us truly Christian.  And this is, this is, the great problem in modern Christianity. It seems to be all talk and no action. For us to change that, to allow our religion to actually become something that causes us to differ from the person standing next to us who’s not a Christian, should be the goal of our studies and our meditations.

It’s often amazing to me in debates, to talk to people who I know have read the Bible or read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Yet, as soon as someone proposes a question, their answers begin with, “I think”, “I think”, “I think”. There’s this disconnect between the faith that they claim to possess–the beliefs and teachings they claim to hold–and every answer they offer to any question that they’re asked.  I always tell my students that there’s no need to “learn to write” as a Christian, you need, ratherm to study to learn what the answers are, because most of the questions have already been answered. When people ask you questions, there’s no need for you to come up with “your own answer”, in “your own words”.  That’s one of the advantages of being Catholic. And that’s why Catholic education is different from all other forms of education: Only Catholic education starts with the truth, and hands it to us, and simply asks us to share it. We’re not stuck in this miserable pretend investigation, that unbelievers are stuck in. We already possess the truth. We simply need to make it our own through study and meditation, and allow it to work itself out through every single point of our thinking, and behavior. And this is where Christians struggle today. They don’t do that. When they’re asked the question, who knows where their answer comes from?  The 1000’s of pages of Catechism questions and answers  and Sacred Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have no bearing on the words that come out of their mouths, or the thoughts that run through their heads when they’re asked a question or faced with a problem.

This disconnect leads to a superficial and useless religion (James 2:17), and this is one of the reasons why our society is abandoning Christianity. It doesn’t seem to have any real power; doesn’t seem to have any real effect, doesn’t seem to make any traction. The rubber never meets the road. In modern Christianity, the Christians have the same vices and weaknesses that their neighbors do, but they talk a big game. Yet, when we look, we don’t see any difference. It’s all talk, no action, no actual, substantial difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. And if we want to know where this difference is to be found, first of all, it should be in the natural virtues. Christians should be models of the natural virtues, they should be models of prudence, of justice, of fortitude, and of temperance. Christians should be the models of those virtues, but we may find non Christians who are very impressive in these virtues. We can find them for example, among some soldiers, we might say, the Navy SEALs or the Army Rangers are really amazing. They’re so virtuous–they’re prudent, they’re just, they’re courageous, they’re temperate.  These leading men in the military are impressive examples of virtue, and our sons admire them. Christians can have no excuse for why they’re inferior in any of these virtues, yet we find that that’s a normal condition. When we do find the most virtuous of the soldiers, it’s normally because there’s a combination of a lively Catholic faith with military discipline that produces the ideal, virtuous man. But when we look among Christians, we often find less virtue, less temperance–which is inexcusable since gluttony is the first battle to be fought in the spiritual life.  We find divorce among Christians, we find imprudence among Christians, we find cowardice among Christians, and it shouldn’t be so because these are just natural virtues. Now, if we want to actually become Christians, and distinguish ourselves and show ourselves to be true children of God, we have to manifest what are called the theological virtues or the supernatural virtues. And these, as I said, are faith, hope, and charity.

I have the Catechism open in front of me today as I’m walking, so I’m going to read the definitions of these theological virtues so we can think about them. We can learn exactly what they are, and, and then talk about how they affect our lives and cause us to differ from unbelievers.

The first of the three theological virtues, is faith. And the Catechism says,

Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. (CCC, 1814)

Let me repeat that:  Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that holy Church proposes for our belief, because He is truth itself. That’s faith. Faith is believing in God. Faith is believing in all that God has revealed. Faith is believing in all that the Church has presented to us to be received by faith. This faith is a virtue. Faith is a virtue, but it’s unlike the natural virtues because what makes the theological virtues different is that they are infused by God into our souls to make us capable of acting as his children and meriting eternal life. A theological virtue is infused into our soul (and notice what it says), not to make us worthy of eternal life, but to make us capable of acting as God’s children and meriting, or earning eternal life. Faith is able to make us worthy of eternal life.  The theological virtues make us capable of earning eternal life. Every one of these words that I’m reading in the Catechism is extremely significant, and if we change or move away from any of these words, well, we’ll lose the truth. And this is what’s dangerous about modern Catholic thinking: it’s sloppy.  It’s not exact, memorized, word-for-word, knowledge of the teaching of the Church. It’s sloppy. We put the religion into your own words, and when we do that, we actually lose the truth because the truth is in the details of these definitions.

Theological virtues are infused by God into our souls, the souls of the faithful, not into the souls of all men. The theological virtues are infused into the souls of Christians to make them capable of acting as God’s children and of meriting eternal life. These virtues are what causes us to differ from unbelievers, unbelievers, because they do not possess theological virtue, because they have not received this grace infused into their soul by God. They are not capable of living as children of God. They are not capable of meriting eternal life. It’s impossible for them, impossible for them. The first theological virtue is faith. Faith is infused into us, and makes it possible for us to believe in God, to believe in all that he has revealed to us. And to believe in all that the church commands us to believe. Faith makes that possible. And faith is a gift from God, a virtue infused into our soul. That gives us the ability to believe. Now why is this important for our actual life? Let’s move from talk up in the clouds, easy talk that everyone can participate in. Because it doesn’t make any difference to kind of the kind of religion that St. James says is useless. Let’s move from this useless religion to real, practical, Christian life. How does faith help us to act like children of God and to merit eternal life? How does faith actually do this? If we look at Proverbs, chapter three, we read a very helpful verse that I always share with students who write to me for advice. Proverbs, chapter three we read, do not lean upon your own understanding. Do not lean upon your own understanding. But Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. This is the key to the Christian life to our actual, practical life. throughout our lives, as I’ve talked about, before, we face constant changes we face, inexplicable. Miss misfortunes, things that come out of nowhere, that catch us completely by surprise that can’t be explained, that have no natural explanation. stuff just happens. And it’s constant, constant. We all have these, you may think that you have these stories and others don’t, but you’re wrong. If you knew other people’s stories of misfortunes, and problems that arise daily in their lives, you’d be shocked. Because you tend to think that only you experienced these things. But others experienced them just the same. When these misfortunes come, or when they threaten to come, are natural response is often anxiety. we’re tempted by these threats of misfortune, we’re tempted to try and find our own way out of them. And what finding our own way out of them usually means is doing something that breaks God’s moral commandments. Maybe I should start working on Sundays, to help pay these bills. Maybe I should take this job at this company that’s not moral. at the corporate level, it does all kinds of shady things and supports all kinds of immoral causes. But you know, it’s just a paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with working for a paycheck, right? This lazy, carnal, self justifying spirit is the natural man’s response to threats and anxiety, threats of misfortune, and anxiety. And yet God’s commandments, tell us where we should go and how we should live. And there until unconditional. God’s commandments are the means by which we know God’s will. When we have a decision to make, and we say, well, what’s God’s will? The answer is, obey his commandments, His commandments direct you, in his will. God’s commandments, show us what we should do in every circumstance. If you’re disobeying God’s commandment, you’re not doing God’s will. It’s that simple. And yet, these times where we’re threatened with misfortune, of any kind, whether it’s financial, physical, social, whatever. We’re threatened with misfortune we’re tempted to sin. We see the commandments, we see what God says, our own hearts often reveal to us the right path. And yet we’re tempted with all of these devilish justifications to break the commandment, just for a time, just this, all these temptations to break the commandment. Now, God promises to bless those who obey his commandments. He promises to bless the people who serve Him in spirit and truth and who obey Him who trust Him, and obey Him. When we come to those times in life, where we have difficult decisions to make, and the decision is God’s word, versus everything else around us, or the teaching of the Church versus everything around us. In that moment, the theological virtue of faith enables us to believe in God, to believe in all that he has revealed to believe in all that the Church teaches, and to act like people who believe and when we choose to do so, even in the face of threatening circumstances, in the face of dark storms and confusing decisions, when we choose to be obedient, we act in this theological virtue of faith. And that causes us to act like children of God, and to merit eternal life. Those practical flesh and blood, everyday decisions are where we act like children of God, and merit, eternal life. Now, we often wonder why, why does God send this trial or this misfortune or this temptation? Why? Why do we have to deal with these things? The answer is found in faith. Because God presents these trials to us to give us the opportunity to merit eternal life. He puts the faith in us by his own grace. He makes us capable of overcoming the trial, and then he allows the trial to come to give us the opportunity to earn everlasting life. If you wanted to win a national championship in wrestling, or a Super Bowl trophy in football, there would be only one way to do it. And that would be to play The most skilled and successful opponents, you have to overcome all kinds of adversity you’ve had, you’d have to play through injuries you’ve had, you’ve had to overcome. homefield advantage that your opponent has in, in this game or that game, you’d have to overcome bad weather. But that’s the only way to win the championship. The reason why the championship is desirable, is because of what’s called the thrill of victory. And the reason why it’s so thrilling is because everyone knows what obstacles have to be overcome in order to obtain it. And that’s why that celebration is so special and meaningful celebration for any significant achievement, that requires sacrifice, and dedication and perseverance, overcoming all kinds of adversity. We understand that in life. And yet, when it comes to spiritual things, we act like it doesn’t make sense, when it makes perfect sense. God gives us the opportunity by His grace, to win everlasting life. And faith makes us capable of doing so. The first of the theological virtues. Let’s move on to the second, the second theological virtue is hope. The second theological virtue is hope. And again, this is a grace or virtue that’s infused into our soul by God to make us capable of acting like children of God, and meriting eternal life, the second theological virtue is hope. The catechism teaches us hope is the theological virtue by which we desire, the kingdom of heaven, and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises, and relying not on our own strength. But on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. I’ll read that again. Hope is the theological virtue by which we the faithful desire, the kingdom of heaven, and eternal life, do you see that hope is a grace that’s infused in our soul that’s given to us by God that causes us to desire the kingdom of heaven. God causes us to desire eternal life. If you look at your neighbors, and you ask, Why don’t they desire to go to heaven like I do? Why don’t they think about things? The way I do I feel like I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stop thinking about judgment day or about heaven or about hell. I can’t stop thinking about these things are constantly in my mind. And when I’m at work, or when I’m with my relatives, or when I’m maybe even with my own children. I feel like they don’t even think about these things. Why do I desire these things? Why do these thoughts torment me 24 hours a day. And yet, when I look around, it seems like other people don’t even have these thoughts. The answer is, that’s a theological virtue. That’s the grace of God. God causes you to desire the kingdom of heaven. He causes you by His grace, to desire eternal life. And by the same virtue, he not only gives you a desire for it, but he helps you to trust in His promises to trust in Christ’s teaching. Christ’s comforting words really comforts us. He assures us that he will always help us he says, I will be with you until the end of the world. He tells us that not become weary to not faint but to pray. If we desire it, if we desire it, we will never ever give up. In the face of the harshest misfortunes and the greatest temptations, this virtue of this desire for heaven will cause us to keep fighting and fighting and fighting, not to rely on our own strength, but to trust that God has promised that he will help us. If we enter in to the battle, if we choose to obey and enter into the battle, if we’re willing to suffer with him. He promises he promises to deliver us and we pray this in the Lord’s Prayer. We pray deliver us from evil, deliver us from evil. So the theological virtue of Hope is what puts in us the desire for heaven. It’s what puts in us the capability of trusting that God will help us which which gives us this optimistic, invincible Christian spirit. Faith leads us to believe God. And to trust that what he says is truth. And like the prophets say there is no counsel or understanding against the Lord. A faithful person is a person who never doubts. what God has said, or what the church has taught, never doubts it in the face of all kinds of pressure. And we see Christians failing in this virtue of faith in modern society, where they’re intimidated, by talk about what science has confirmed, or what research suggests or what the people want. We see, we see Catholics buckling, and yielding, and not believing not trusting in God’s truth. We see a lack of faith, and we see lack of hope, where they’re willing to be Christians if it’s easy, because their desire for heaven is not what it should be. Maybe they don’t have a desire for heaven at all. And maybe that lack of desire is ultimately going to reveal itself as the cause of their apostasy and loss of salvation. Jesus says, He who perseveres to the end shall be saved. Why? Because he’s strict and mean? No, because the grace of hope, will give a Christian the power and ability to do so. It’s a mark, that a person is born again, that the Holy Spirit dwells within him because he has a desire for heaven. That’s supernatural. He has a desire for it. That’s supernatural, that’s not human. He has a trust in Christ’s promises. That’s super human. He doesn’t believe that God requires him to do anything on his own. So when he faces a great obstacle, he’s not discouraged from it, because he doesn’t have the understanding, or the physical ability or the money to do it. He looks at the problem. And says, like St. Paul, with God, all things are possible. That’s one of the themes of Scripture with God. All things are possible, like the angel said to the Virgin Mary. Nothing is impossible with God. That’s a part of the virtue of hope. To desire heaven so much, that we’re willing to fight for it. Through all adversities through all misfortunes and obstacles and temptations to keep fighting. Motivated by this supernatural desire for heaven. That’s been put within us to trust in Christ’s promises in the face of all temptations. And to know that it’s not our own ability that’s needed for victory. But it’s the grace that God has promised to us. In God’s providence, in today’s mass reading on Sunday, July 4, in today’s mass reading, we read God saying to St. Paul, My grace is sufficient for the that’s the whole point. I just remembered, That was today’s homily and mass. My grace is sufficient for the that that knowledge that God’s grace is sufficient for us, is a part of this theological virtue of hope, that with God, all things are possible. So that’s the second of the theological virtues, the virtue of hope. The third, theological virtue is the virtue of charity. And of course, we hear all kinds of talk about the virtue of charity. Because in modern society, we want charity to mean being nice to people, getting along with other people. Charity is a theological virtue. True charity is a theological virtue, a virtue that’s infused into our souls, by God. And listen, unbelievers cannot have charity. If there is a spirit, or a behavior in unbelievers, that’s called charity. It’s not true. charity. True charity is a theological virtue. It’s a grace that’s infused into the soul of the faithful by God Himself, as one of the graces of salvation, unbelievers do not have the virtue of true charity. And so if you define charity in a way that allows it to be something unbelievers can possess and practice. That’s proof that your idea of charity is a counterfeit of the real thing. Let’s read what true charity is the theological virtue of charity. Charity, the Catechism says, is the theological virtue by which we love God. Your neighbors don’t have this, unbelievers don’t have this. Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God, above all things, for his own sake. And we love our neighbor as ourselves, for the love of God. Your unbelieving neighbors don’t have charity, your friendly, non Christian co workers do not have charity. A smiling politician who’s trying to help poor people, does not have charity. Charity is a theological virtue by which we don’t nearly treat our neighbors nicely, or act friendly to other people. That’s not charity. Charity is a theological virtue, by which we love God more than anything else. And we love our neighbor, for God’s sake. And what that means simply is we love our neighbor, because it’s God’s will. And we love God. We love our neighbor, because God tells us to, and that’s all we need to know. We do good to our neighbor because God tells us to do good to our neighbor. Again, if we have a counterfeit view of charity for charity is a feeling of affection. We just wander off the course. And we pretend to have charity. When we don’t, anyone can act nice, every politician, every car salesman acts nice for the sake of something else, the car salesman will be very nice to you, for the sake of the sale. But he’s not nice to you, for God’s sake. His motivation to be nice to you is not because he loves God so much. Your co workers may be nice to you, because they want a good review. So they can get a raise, or maybe a promotion. They don’t want to get fired. That’s not charity. A person may be nice in conversation and never raise any controversial issues. And people may say he’s so charitable, he’s so professional. He’s so kind, because he never talks about anything that makes anyone feel uncomfortable. But that’s not charity. That’s not charity. That could simply be cowardice. He could do that. Just because he wants more clients or more customers or more readers, he wants more students in his school. And so he’s not going to say anything that might offend a parent. And he’s going to be praised for how charitable he is. But that’s not charity. That’s not charity. He’s doing that for the sake of his own business. There are many days where I’m presented with the opportunity to write on a topic, talk on a topic. And I know that I have a duty as a Christian to assert what God has said, on an issue, what God has revealed or what the church has presented to me as a matter of faith. And I know that as soon as I publish this article, or make this post, or post this talk, I’m going to see negative consequences. I’m going to see people unsubscribe from mailing lists, I’m going to see people withdraw their children. From online courses, I’m going to see people stop donating money. That’s just a necessary part of the work of Christian education. I respect the people who support me when I talks, talk strongly on the controversial issues when they need to be addressed. And when the people leave, I don’t. I don’t When can I that’s real life. To do whatever it would take to keep them all. And to make them all like me to always be smiling and hugging and shaking hands. And praising would not be charity. That’s just business. That’s just salesmanship. That’s easy. I could do that easily if I wanted to. But I don’t want to charity, his love of God above all things for his own sake, unconditionally, not because he gives us good health, not because he provides us with a good job not because he gives us beautiful children not because our life is comfortable, but to love God for His own sake, unconditionally. Where do we see an example of this kind of charity? The Scriptures are filled with them. A clear example is in job in the Old Testament. God allows him to undergo what may be one of the greatest trials ever experienced by man. Job lost everything his family, his fortune, his physical health. Everything was taken away from him by the devil. He was left desolate. In the dust sitting literally in the dust. A physically unhealthy man with nothing. And what he said to the people who came to see him he said even if God slays me, I will trust him. That’s charity. Even if he slays me, I will trust him. That’s charity, love of God above all things for his own sake. Another example, can be found, of course, in our Lord. When we look at Christ, in his passion, we look at his willingness to suffer all things. We look at his love for his father, for his own sake, unconditionally, his willingness to be obedient, unto death, even death on a cross. And he does so willingly motivated by love, love for God, for his own sake, willing to give up anything for God’s sake, that’s charity, and to turn around, and to look at our neighbors, to look at all the people around us, as Jesus teaches, not just people who are likable and nice, are friendly, not people who are unselfish. Not people who are self reliant, who don’t bother us much, but to look on even our enemies, even on those who seek to persecute us, who speak falsely about us, maybe physically threaten and injure us, steal from us, on and on, to love them, to do our duty to them, to forgive them, and to do what’s right to them even when they do what’s wrong to us. That is an example of how the theological virtue makes us capable of acting like children of God, to return evil for evil is not to act like a child of God, it’s to act like the children of the devil, we simply return to them the evil that they did to us. We use their sin to justify our own equally sinful response. And imagine that it’s okay because they did it. First. We reason like little unreasoning toddlers fighting with each other. But a person who thinks and acts like that should be concerned that he doesn’t possess this grace of the Holy Spirit, this grace of charity if we can’t love our neighbor, again, that doesn’t mean some goofy idea of friendly romantic buddy ship. It doesn’t mean we hang out with everyone. It doesn’t mean that we hug every neighbor we meet. It doesn’t mean we have to go to every party and attend to every event. Because we don’t want to offend anyone. It means that we do our duty to them. We do to them as we would have others do to us. We obey God’s commandments to them, or upon them. God commands us to help someone in need. We do that to our neighbor. Even if they’re enemies, we help them not for their sake, not because they deserve it. But because God tells us to, and we love God, and God deserves our obedience. We do God’s will. We love our neighbor. For God’s sake. The grace given to us that allows us to do that which is supernatural is the theological virtue of charity. And it starts with love for God. I remember once when I was in college, I was at a job interview. It was a state office. It was a it was a retirement home for veterans and I was I was looking for early morning work that wouldn’t interfere With my school schedule, I was looking for like a 5am shift. And we had this interview at this place where they talked about the culture of this veteran’s home. And the woman talking was saying, Oh, you know, they respect diversity. And we’re able to, we’re able to agree to disagree. And we support diversity and all this. And, and the next thing she said was, we all believe in the 10 commandments. And this is this is the typical way people talk about these things like charity. But we don’t believe in the 10 commandments. We don’t all agree on the 10 commandments, because the first three commandments have to do with God. The first commandment is that we shall have no other gods. Except the Lord accepts the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He is the only God. a roomful of diverse religions does not agree on the 10 commandments. They may agree on some of the moral commands that relate to people and personal relationships, for the sake of their own careers, and opportunities. They’re not going to steal for fear of going to jail, they’re not going to steal for fear of losing their job. But that’s not charity. And that’s not what it means to keep the 10 commandments. To keep the 10 commandments. Jesus says, the sum of the law is this love God and love your neighbor. It’s charity, not humanly possible, not humanly possible. When Jesus came to the rich young ruler, and the rich young ruler came to him and said, good teacher, what must I do, that I may gain eternal life. Jesus tells him obey the commandments. And he says, I have, I have kept the commandments. And Jesus says to him, one thing you lack, go and sell everything you have. Give it to the poor, and then come follow me. And it says, The rich man went away sad, for he had many possessions. What he lacked, the one thing he lacked was the theological virtue of true charity, the love of God, above all things. God Himself was inviting that young man to join him, and have eternal life. And that man did not love God, above all things. The one thing that he lacked as a good, natural man, he lacked the theological virtue of charity. Now, if he desired Heaven, if he had the virtue of hope, he would have asked for help. But he didn’t. He not only lacked the virtue of charity, but he also lacked the theological virtue of hope. And he went away sad. And as far as we know, he lost his opportunity, forever everlasting life. That’s charity, charity, to love God above all things, to be willing to part with anything for God’s sake, and to be willing, in any circumstances, to love our neighbor, because God wants us to. And you can get into all of these goofy kind of explanations like all we should love our neighbor, because every one of our neighbors bears the image of God and we should see Jesus in all the like, that’s, that’s cute talk. That’s cute talk. It’s really cute religious language. But it’s much simpler than that. You don’t have to get into this silly, weird, religious talk about things. Besides, our neighbors really don’t manifest the image of God because they’re fallen corrupt creatures that was said in the Garden of Eden in the creation of original man. It’s very difficult to see Christ in our neighbor. Because the image of God has been largely destroyed and corrupted. It’s much more realistic to say you have To Be kind to your neighbor, because God says so. And if you love God, you’ll do what he says. Because you love God, period. That’s why. And if you can’t love your neighbor, no matter what, all that that reveals is that you don’t love God. And this is what St. JOHN says explicitly. In his epistle in the New Testament, he says, How can anyone say he loves God, whom he has not seen, when he cannot love his brother, whom he has seen, it’s just nonsense, religious talk, to talk about how much you love God to stand around, with your eyes closed and your hands up in the air, singing praise songs, when you can’t be nice to people around you. You can’t love them and obey God’s commandments towards them. You can’t forgive their sins. When they do evil to you, you do evil right back and justify it because they did it first. You can’t love them. Because you don’t love God. Because God has commanded you to love them. Because it’s by means of your love, that they are led into the kingdom of God, which is how God is glorified. Your to love them for the sake of their own salvation. Look at these political fights, listen to Christians talk about liberals, and democrats listen to them. Do you think they’re attracting any of those people into the kingdom of heaven? They don’t even think about that. Because their thoughts and all of these political fights, their thoughts are not with God’s glory. They’re not thinking about the kingdom of God. They’re thinking about where their tax money is going to be spent, and how their money is going to be wasted. They’re not thinking about eternal life. They’re not acting with the virtue of charity. Charity is concerned with the salvation of souls, and the glory of God. Not with carnal stuff. That was taxes, financial benefits, that’s not what charity is about. We hear Christians talking about how they’re so excited about buying guns and killing people who break into their houses and boasting about how if anybody breaks into their house, they’re going to, they’re going to blow them to bits. That’s not charity. That’s not, that’s not a concern for another person’s salvation. That’s not a concern for the glory of God. That’s just protection of your stuff. And not even considering that that person you’re blowing up could be redeemed through the gospel, and glorify God forever. All of this stupid political talk is not charitable. And charitable doesn’t just mean nice and friendly, or avoiding controversial topics. Charitable means you think about God, when you talk. You think about God above all things. When you talk. And you think about your neighbor, and your duty to your neighbor. That’s commanded by God. And you think about doing it, for God’s sake, because you love God. That’s what it means to be charitable. Charity is about God. It begins and ends with God. Not with your neighbor, not with your country. Not with your own prosperity or comfort. It begins and ends with God. That’s true charity. Now, when we have these theological virtues, working capable of living, like children of God, we’re capable of living like saints. Because every moment by moment, decision, action trial that we face is going to be humanly impossible for us to overcome. Maybe not an individual trial, maybe not an individual decision or an individual difficulty. Maybe some of them we can overcome by our own strength. We can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, and fight through things on our own, maybe some trials but if we rely on On strength, bigger waves will come, nastier storms will come. And God will allow them to come if he loves us. If he wishes for us to receive His grace, God will allow bigger and badder storms to come until we finally learn, to live as we should. until we finally, get rid of all pride, get rid of all self reliance. Get rid of our own confidence in our own understanding. Get rid of anything that distracts us from the love of God. trials will continue to come until we finally learn our lesson. And if God intends for our salvation, he’ll give us the theological graces so that we can actually overcome the trials of this life and gain and merit eternal life. And so Solomon’s dilemma of life under the sun is no longer the worldview of the Christian because of these theological virtues that are given to him. When he looks at the world, he no longer looks at it through human understanding or human experience, or human sense. He looks at it through the eyes of the virtue of faith that’s been given to him as a grace, for his salvation, he doesn’t look at the world. He’s not motivated in the pursuit of worldly things that that are not in his control that are in the hands of fortune, that lead him to vexation that make him confess, like solemn, that everything is vanity. He doesn’t have that view of the world, because he has a desire for the kingdom of heaven and for eternal life. Because of the theological virtue of hope that’s been given to him. He’s able to see beyond the grave, he’s able to see past physical sickness, he’s able to see past financial loss, or other misfortunes he’s able to see through and past death. When he’s threatened with these things, when he’s threatened with these misfortunes, he’s able to see beyond them like Jesus, St. Paul says, For the joy set before him, he endured the cross. Jesus was looking at the joy of everlasting life, in the kingdom of heaven. threats of death didn’t overwhelm him, because he saw past this physical life. And he knew that death was just one step along the way. It wasn’t the end. It was just one step or a bridge between this life and life of the world to come. When we’re faced with terrible losses and threats, even the threat of life itself, we’ll see through it and past it, and say, It’s okay, it’s okay. I can lose that. I’ll be okay. And that changes the decisions we make, that changes the actions we take. That allows us to keep pressing on, especially when we remember that hope, gives us confidence in God’s help, and trust in God’s promises. That’s all included in hope. And then the ultimate sign that we are children of God is that in the presence of all of these false teachings, deceptions, confusing self isms, trials, misfortunes, suffering in the presence of all these things. The theological virtue of charity, in the midst of all of these evils, allows us to love our neighbor. Not because this world is so great, not because there’s some physical reward to obtain because it’s pleasing to God. And that’s so strengthened by This supernatural Grace is able to do all of the things that even the admirable stoics couldn’t do. It’s able to overcome all trials, all temptations, able to overcome all evil treatment, to believe in God, to hope in God, and to love God unconditionally, even though he slays me, yet will I trust him. That that’s a life that Aristotle couldn’t quite understand. That’s a life that the stoics couldn’t understand. That’s the life that no other religion can understand. Only Christians, only true Christians, only Christians who are truly born again, who possess the Holy Spirit, who have these graces these supernatural virtues infused into their souls, by God Himself. They’re the only people who can live that life, the life of the children of God, the life that’s worthy of everlasting life, only Christians can do that. And if Christians don’t manifest this life, this supernatural life, then their religion is useless. Like St. James says, if their lives don’t bear fruit, that their neighbors cannot bear, then they are not bearing the fruit of the Christian life. If they are not able to believe, if they’re not able to hope, if they’re not able to love, then they don’t act like Christians. They may have the talk of Christianity in their mouth, but they don’t have the virtue of a Christian, in their soul, in their hands, in their feet, in their mouth, in their minds. They have only the words, but not the substance of Christianity. Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. So this is where the natural virtue of the virtuous pagans reaches its limit. Why and Dante’s comedy, they are not able to enter into paradise but are stuck in limbo. We don’t know exactly how God will judge people who lived according to the natural virtues before the time of the gospel, because the theological virtues weren’t even available to them. And it’s very reasonable to think that God will judge them according to what they had, not according to what they didn’t have. And that’s why Catholics tend to put the virtuous pagans in limbo, and not in hell. We, however, we who know the gospel and are commanded to believe in the Gospel, to be born again, to pray, to study, to meditate, to seek these things. If we possess the Holy Spirit, these virtues should be in us, making us capable of living like children of God, capable to merit eternal life. And if we don’t see these distinguishing marks, something’s wrong and sugarcoating our lives. Putting Catholic pictures on the walls, putting a veil on top of our head, wearing a tie and suit jacket, listening to a certain kind of music, choosing a certain curriculum, none of these things can replace the true virtue of the Christian life because it’s supernatural. It can’t be It can’t be. It can’t be mimicked. It can’t be. It can’t be faked can’t be counterfeited. We either have it or we don’t. And if we don’t, we have to seek it through The Gospel. So when we talk about all these issues, remember, the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are given to Christians by God, so that they may live like Christians. It’s what causes us to desire heaven. It’s what causes us to love God. It’s what causes us to love our neighbor. It’s what causes us to believe that the things that God says are true. Our neighbors aren’t crazy, because they don’t believe that God created the world. Our neighbors aren’t crazy. Because they don’t think about heaven, our neighbors aren’t crazy, because they don’t love one another. Our neighbors are normal. If we’ve been born again, we’re the ones who are different. And we should be different. And our neighbors should know that. Not only are we different, but we’re better. We’re better people. We have wiser lives, we have more virtuous dispositions, we have greater strength, we have greater hope. We’re not overwhelmed by temptations and trials, they watch our family power through them, by faith, hope and charity. They see our family overcome trials, they don’t see us divorcing. They see our relationships being reconciled, and and healed by faith, hope and charity. They see us overcoming the world by the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. And they should be asking us, where can we get these gifts? Where can we get this strength? Where can we get this grace? And the answer for them is in the Gospel. The answer for them is in the church. You must be born again. And this is the foundation of evangelization, which is our true mission as Christians in the world. So that’s the difference between Christians and virtuous pagans. That’s the difference between people who are interested in political controversies and morals. And Christians, Christians possess supernatural virtue, their lives are filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit wood you can read about in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians chapter five, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, by a tree you will know its fruits are by sorry, by the fruits a tree is known. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are explained in Galatians. Five. If those fruits are not present on us, the tree may not be good. This is the difference between Christians and non Christians. I hope that’s helpful. That’s my Sunday meditation for today. If you find anything worth discussing, or if this leads you to think about other topics or ask other questions, please share them because they can inspire future talks and meditations and we can just keep growing in thinking and talking through these issues. But what I want to encourage you to do is recognize the temptation that Christians have of being content with a candy coating of a normal human life rather than a complete renovation. Complete rebirth. renewal of our entire lives with this truth with these theological virtues, being infused into our souls by God, and then working themselves out through everything we do through every part of us through every thought in our mind, every word on our tongue, through what we see, smell, hear, taste and touch. Meditate on whether or not these truths are being worked through your whole actual practical life or whether they’re just remaining as this Have overcoat you put on? Or this decoration that you put up on the wall, or a cover that you wrapped around a book. It’s Christianity, permeating your life and renewing your entire person, your heart, soul and mind. Are they just being laid on top of a worldly life as some kind of cover? We have to be true. Living Christians, whose thoughts words and deeds are proceeding from the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Not people who talk about religion just to say the right phrases, just to say the right things, and yet their lives practically have no sign of divine power, no sign of rebirth, no sign of these theological or supernatural graces, no sign that the power of God is within them, that the kingdom of God is within them. So let that be our meditation. How do our lives, how does the works we do? How does the words we speak? How do our answers to questions were asked reflect the reality that these virtues have been given to us and are directing our entire lives. I hope that’s helpful. God bless you all.

William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy