by Bishop Gerard Battersby
Cultivating the supernatural virtues provides the plan, fuel, and light to help Catholics witness for their faith.
Jesus tells us that if we cleave to him we will bear fruit, and without him we can do nothing (Jn 5:15). The New Evangelization is the work of the Holy Spirit of Christ, and it is our role to cooperate with the movements of the Holy Spirit in our age, with our gifts and talents, and in our situations.
Love: God's Plan for Me
To be a witness does not require a degree, it requires a receptive heart, a heart poised for love, a heart that calls out Maranatha!Come Lord Jesus (Rv 22:20). Whenever we are confused about a task, it is good to begin with the basics, to look how God equips us for the task ahead, leaving nothing unattended.
In the First Letter of John, the Evangelist emphatically tells us that God is love (1 Jn 4:8). God is love and, this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn 4:9-11).
Love is not a part of the story of our discipleship. Love is discipleship's very foundation, the stuff of its being. God is love and it is his expressed desire to re-establish all creation in himself (Eph 1:10). Sometimes we can persuade ourselves to tone down God's plan as if it were too extravagant, but for those who love God, Eye has not seen . . . (1 Cor 2:9).
This is God's plan for all his creatures; that is, to literally make us like himself, inviting us to become love through love, to be by grace what Jesus is by nature. The enormity of God's gift will enrapture us forever, his humility to stoop down to our need will amaze us eternally, and the love of Our Father to draw us unto himself will be a delight to our hearts for all ages to come.
Called by love and enabled by love, we are to dwell in the heart of the Father's embrace; to be as St. John and Bl. Columba Marmion teach, In Sinu Patris (Jn 1:18), In the bosom of the Father.
Love is at the heart of the Father's plan. It is this heavenly vision that must become our vision and the animating principle of our lives. We must live in the knowledge of the truth that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Love is God's plan.
Hope: Fuel for the Fight
Since God is love and his plan is to re-found all creation, all men and women are invited to live lives, as the Catholic author George Weigel says, in the condign shape of hope. Hope for a believer is not wishful thinking but rather a firm disposition of trust, whose substance is faith.
Hope is a supernatural gift from a loving God; it must be the fuel that powers our every day, to love and serve. Love begets hope and hope empowers men and women to act, even amidst the most difficult of circumstances. People who hope live differently; they live with a heavenly perspective, with the odor of eternity about them.
Those who possess the virtue of hope see further. They see through and beyond the cross.
Pope Benedict XVI describe hope's power in his encyclical letter on the virtue of hope, Spe Salvi: Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can give the courage to act and to persevere (no. 35).
We live and love in hope because we believe. The substance of hope is faithfaith in the Father's love, faith in the one whom he sent, faith in the enduring power and truth of the Paschal Mystery.
Faith: Light for the Way
Pope Francis in his first encyclical, co-authored with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, writes, Faith is born of an encounter with a living God, who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives (Lumen Fidei, no. 4). Further, he writes, Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time (no. 4). Faith is the lens through which we view reality, through which we live our lives, through which we choose, in confidence, the path forward.
As Christians, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). We walk not by the measure of this world, but by faith in Jesus Christ, faith in the one who sent him.
It is in the living out of the truth of God's love in faith and hope that we bear witness as disciples. Because we are adopted sons and daughters (Eph 1:5) and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17), we jointly and severally have a supernatural duty to bear witness to the Father's love, to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father (Phil 2:11). This is the witness we must offer the world whose heralds we have become in baptism, empowered to do so by the grace of confirmation.
As we are convicted of the singular truth of Jesus' lordship over our lives, this truth in which we abide transforms us, transforms the culture we live in, and, in turn, transforms world. Our conviction is not simply an intellectual assent but rather a pressing into the truth of Jesus' lordship with our entire self, with our whole being in faith, hope and love.
It is, in a very real sense, the coming of his kingdom (Lk 17:21).
Faith, hope, and love are gifts of a loving God who shares his life and heavenly vision with each of us. As we acquire heaven's vision as a habitual disposition for our lives, as we respond to these divine gifts, we begin to live differently, to love differently, and to serve differently.
Let us implore the divine favor upon each of us this Paschal Season. Let us ask for the prayers of St. Anne and the intercession of Our Blessed Lady to implore the divine favor for an increase in the supernatural gifts of faith, hope, and love, that we might believe more fully, hope more ardently, and love more completely, unto the Glory of the One slain who now lives forever (Rv 13:8).
Bishop Gerard BattersbyBishop Gerard W. Battersby (college 1994, theology 1998, STL 2009) served as vice rector of the seminary from 2011 to 2016. He was ordained auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit on January 25.