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Is your faith on autopilot? Aquinas on the power of charity


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Daniel Esparza - published on 04/16/24

Faith is certainly an exceptional gift. It is a bridge extended between us and God. But have you ever wondered if your faith is truly alive, active?

Faith is certainly an exceptional gift. It is, one could say, a bridge extended between us and God. But have you ever wondered if your faith is truly alive, active? St. Thomas Aquinas, a towering figure in Catholic theology, sheds light on the concept of “lifeless faith” – a concept that can help us assess the vitality of our own faith.

According to Aquinas, faith is an intellectual assent to truths revealed by God. Now, notice it is not blind belief, but a firm trust based on God’s trustworthiness.

However, faith can become “lifeless” if it lacks a key ingredient: charity, the love of God and neighbor.

Think of faith as a fire. The flames (faith itself) need fuel (charity) to burn brightly and provide heat (good works). Lifeless faith, like a fire with dying embers, has the basic disposition but lacks the heat to truly transform life.

Here’s a closer look.

Faith alone isn’t enough: Aquinas warns that faith can exist without love. Someone may intellectually accept the teachings of the Church but not put them into action. They may even attend Mass but totally disregard serving and helping others. This faith may not be completely dead, but it lacks the energy to bear fruit – it is not fully alive.

The importance of charity: Charity, again, is the fire that ignites faith. When love for God fills our hearts, it overflows into love for others. This love compels us to live according to our faith by putting our beliefs into action. We become active participants in God’s plan, sharing His love through good deeds.

Lifeless Faith vs. Loss of Faith

It is important to distinguish lifeless faith from a complete loss of faith. Someone with lifeless faith may still hold to core beliefs but has not yet embraced the transforming power of that faith.

So how do we cultivate a vibrant faith? Here are some simple, commonsensical tips.

Deepen your prayer life: A strong prayer connection with God naturally fosters a deeper love for Him. You cannot truly love what you do not know.

Engage in acts of charity: Volunteer, donate, or simply lend a helping hand. Put your love for God into action – even if you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised to see the power of small decisions and gestures. It’s like the first time you go to the gym. You surely don’t want to do it, and you know it will be difficult. But, after the first month, everything has changed.  

Study your faith: The more you understand your beliefs, the more empowered you will be to live them. You cannot put into practice what you do not understand.

By nurturing our faith with the fire of charity, we can ensure that it remains alive, guiding our actions and drawing us closer to God. Remember, a living faith isn’t just about believing: it’s about actively living what we believe.

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