A Good Man is Hard to Find
"Without Grace it is impossible to please God."
Editor's Note: We are bringing you Father's sermon for the 20th Sunday After Pentecost which he gave last year at this time. In Monday's issue, we hope to bring you his sermon he is giving this Sunday for the 20th Sunday After Pentecost. In the homily below, Father Louis stresses that "without grace it is impossible to please God" and yet, the more the modern Church stresses ecumenism, the closer it becomes Pelagianism for the grace is lacking and therefore, it is impossible to please the Almighty. This is only too evident over the last forty years in the lack of fruits and the disintegration of the faith.
We hear much today about who is good and who is evil. I'm trying to be a "good" American. For a Canadian, that's not easy. I'm trying to be "real friendly," optimistic, patriotic, although I seem to be the only one on the block who is not flying the flag.
Father Louis J. Campbell
What is a good American?
When we talk of "goodness" we have to ask whether we mean purely natural goodness - the kind which is possessed by every human being, to some degree-or supernatural goodness, which is possessed by those who are in the state of sanctifying grace.
There are the natural virtues of love, courage, kindness, patience, diligence, and the rest. The natural virtues are not only good but necessary, because "grace builds upon nature," as St. Thomas Aquinas said. What is needed is nature elevated by grace to the supernatural level, which happens when we are baptized, or when we make a good confession after a serious fall. When we are in the state of grace our good actions are pleasing to God and merit a reward, even the reward of Heaven.
Now we all know kind and generous people - perhaps the neighbors next door - who possess the natural virtues. There are good people everywhere you go, not only in America, but even in Afghanistan and Iraq, fathers who work hard day after day to support their families, mothers who sacrifice their own desires for the good of their children, all kinds of people with natural virtues.
Many compare themselves with others and come off looking good in their own eyes, because they don't rob banks, they don't hijack planes or kill innocent people. They are "as good as the next guy." They expect they'll go to Heaven, since they have the natural virtues. But, as St. Paul says, "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb.6:7).
There was a British monk called Pelagius, who lived in the fourth century and into the fifth. He taught that one could be saved just by doing good, using you willpower, without the help of the grace of God. The heresy became known as Pelagianism, and was opposed by St. Augustine, who taught the necessity of God's grace, even if we are to begin to do good. St. Augustine became known as the Doctor of Grace because of this.
This has become a problem for the contemporary Church, which is very Pelagian. In the ecumenical and inter-faith prayer meetings that are so common these days (modeled on John Paul II's inter-faith prayer meeting at Assisi in 1986 and again this year) the idea of Pelagius is at work. These participants are good and sincere people. Why not pray with them? But because many of them do not have true faith, their prayer is not pleasing to God. Jesus Himself had warned against praying as the pagans do: "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." True prayer takes faith, and "Without faith it is impossible to please God."
The faith that is required is like the faith of the man in the Gospel today. He was, in fact, a good man, in that he possessed the natural virtues, but it was not until he returned home after his son was healed, that "he himself believed, and his whole household."
It takes more than the natural virtues of courage, determination and assertiveness to be good Americans. We may think that God is on our side, but again, "without faith it is impossible to please God." We have to be willing to observe all of His commandments. Pray, indeed, for America and for the world, that at last we all might have faith in the One Who came to us from the Father, Jesus Christ, true Messiah and King of All Nations. †
October 4-6, 2002
vol 13, no. 109
"Qui legit, intelligat" Father Louis Campbell's Sunday Sermons