By Maria Covarrubias
At the beginning of our Lenten journey, the Lord, through the prophet Joel, was asking us: “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. ” [Joel 2, 11-13]
These words of the Lord set the context of the Lenten journey as a time to consciously stop moving to check the GPS of our lives, behaviors, and motives; a time of intentionally changing gears to move toward the Lord in a more profound relationship. This is the time of preparing the soil of our souls by taking specific and intentional efforts to cultivate the theological virtues of Faith, Love and Hope which are the foundation of our Christian character. The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues which relate directly to God. These virtues form us and give us the character of a follower of Christ. God instills these virtues in the soul of the faithful to permit them to behave as His children to become worthy of eternal life. These virtues are a reflection of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit within the Christian disciple. (C.C.C. # 1813, 1841)
Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God the Trinity, believe everything that He has said and revealed to us. By faith, we also believe in what the Catholic Church teaches. Because of faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live by it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it and spread it. (C.C.C. # 1814, 1816)
Through the theological virtue of hope, the Christian is inclined to desire communion (a union) with the Holy Trinity. The virtue of hope originates from God through the grace of faith. It draws the Christian towards God, providing him with hope in God (C.C.C. # 1812, 1840). Hope is not an option for a Christian. When facing any situation, the Christian comes with hope expecting that there is already something good in that, trusting in the providence and mercy of God. Psalm 40:5 reminds us that “blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers [Ps 1:3]. Hope opens up the Christian’s heart in anticipation of eternal divine blessedness. Encouraged by the virtue of hope, the Christian is preserved from self-concern, leading him to greater happiness that comes from charity. (C.C.C. # 1818)
St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, declares that the greatest of these virtues is love [1 Cor. 13:13]. This is an invitation to a greater and profound love. Lent is permeated in this perfect love of the Father that sent his only Son to redeem us. God cannot love us more. He has done the ultimate act of love. “For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” [Joel 2, 11-13]
The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian morality. Living a Christian moral life is living out the integration of everything we believe as Christians put into action. It is to live our baptismal promises, responding to the call to holiness and moving toward God.
What thoughts and images came to me when I read this article?
Which of the theological virtues do I need to strengthen to move toward God? How?
Maria Covarrubias is Director of the Office of Catechetical Ministry for the Diocese of San Bernardino.