Faith, Hope, Love


Living the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity:

(Jer 17:5-10; Ps 1: Lk 16:19-31)


The parish of St. Albert, Alberta, for its anniversary celebration some years ago, chose the theme “Rooted in Faith, Living with Hope, Growing in Love.”

That theme fits today’s readings, inviting us to pray for a deepening of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love in our lives – called theological because they are infused by God and not obtained through human effort.

Jeremiah is his usually outspoken, blunt self in the first reading. Cursed are those who in their lack of faith have become materialistic. On the other hand, blessed are those who trust in the Lord, they will overcome fear and be free of anxiety.  Their hearts are not devious, set on the Lord as they are. Their faith moves to trust, and finally to surrender as they rest in God.

Psalm 1 speaks about hope, as it proclaims “Happy are those who hope in the Lord, who meditate on the law of the Lord, day and night.” St. Augustine shares this insight into hope: “God’s praises are sung both in heaven and here, but here they are sung by those destined to die; there, by those destined to live forever; here they are sung in hope, there, in hope’s fulfillment; here they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country.” (Sermon 256, Office of Readings, Week 34 05)

The gospel takes us into the realm of both faith and love. Jesus recounts the story of a rich man and Lazarus to the Pharisees, whom Luke notes “loved money.” They could be among the cursed mentioned by Jeremiah, who “make mere flesh their strength and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord.” The rich man might also fit that description and be one who has put his trust in wealth.

It is not a sin to be wealthy as such. The morality of money comes with how we use it. If in a lack of faith, one hoards wealth and does not use it generously to help the poor and needy, to do what one can do bring greater justice and equality into the world, then it indeed becomes the sin of greed and selfishness. That was the real sin of the rich man – not caring, not loving, not even noticing poor Lazarus at his gate longing to satisfy his hunger even with scraps from the table of the rich man.

It is so easy for us to insulate ourselves from the plight of the poor, the homeless, the indigent, the mentally unstable, those with whom we would rather not associate, whom our society renders invisible. That is always a challenge, as it was for the religious Pharisees, the rich man of the gospel, and for us today as we tend to shelter ourselves from the downtrodden with gated communities, high walls, sturdy fences, and now, higher and stronger walls at our borders.

The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, and is told they have Moses and the prophets so they should listen to them. When he requests that someone who has come back from the dead be sent as a more credible witness to get through to his probably likewise rich, uncaring brothers, he is told they won’t listen to even someone who comes back from the dead, if they didn’t listen to Moses and the prophets.

That is a not-so-subtle reference to the Pharisees, whose additional sin was unbelief in Jesus, and hypocrisy in the way they allowed rules and regulations to overrule the law of love. They refused to see how the psalms and prophets were all pointing to a suffering servant and crucified Messiah – especially Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, which to this day they tend to selectively ignore, or claim refers to Israel as a whole.

Those Jews who have come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah are known as messianic Jews, and are actually persecuted, hounded and put down by the religious establishment to the present time. We need not judge them too harshly, however, as many folks today struggle to believe in the resurrection, and do not use their wealth to create greater equality and help the poor. The TV series Messiah portrays what Jesus might experience if he were to come back in person today as he did then – confusion, unbelief and resistance, only now more widespread with internet, Facebook and cell phones involved!

SSSVP display

Given all of the above, I feel grateful at having been asked to be the national chaplain for the St. Vincent the Paul Society, which I did for three years. It was so heartwarming to be among and minister to a group of people so selflessly dedicated to using their time, money and talent to reach out to the poor and dispossessed. Now, I am having the same experience as part of the Canadian/Caribbean leadership team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter – working with couples finding joy and fulfillment in strengthening the sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders, and helping other couples take their relationship to a higher level.

With Candice and Doug Chappell

The Eucharist brings together these cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love. it is an act of faith that forgives and heals, a celebration of hope in the fullness to come, and empowers us to be sent out to put our faith into practical acts of charity and love wherever there is a need.

So, as we celebrate, let us pray for a strong faith that will express its hope through works of charity.


Updated: February 29, 2024 — 1:16 am

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