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Summary: St. Peter gives us a program for becoming saints of faith.

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Monday of 9th Week in Course

Verbum Domini

Sometimes the New Testament gives us a long or short example of the earliest movements toward what we call systematic theology. This second letter of Peter begins with something like that–a list of strengths or virtues in logical order. Each virtue is to be undergirded by, or built on a foundation, of a related virtue. We can use this as a way to understand how terribly incomplete the Protestant statement sola fide is. They mean it to say that faith in Christ is the only thing necessary for salvation, that the good things we do for God and for others are of no value, because we are so corrupt. Now the Epistle of James talks about faith and works, but the problem for that Protestant belief is that it says the opposite–faith without good works is dead. And, moreover, today’s reading tells us that the gift of faith, far from being a stand-alone reality, has to be built on a foundation. This diagram shows the relationship of faith to the other virtues, all of them habits in us that are gifts of God. Notice that the root of all these virtues is love, and that this love shows up as “brotherly affection.” This is the English translation of the Greek word philadelphia, which is the special love-in-action that we show to each other as Christians. Love, then, the gift of God in Christ we receive in the sacraments, first shows up in doing good for others, especially Christians, and then builds us up to be like God, to be steadfast even when things go against us, to keep our passions under control, to know what to do under all circumstances, to be strong and to believe with such intensity we can move mountains. In other words, this is a program for right living as a Catholic. Do this, and we will be good stewards of the gifts of God.

Do this, and we will be saints of God. The Holy Father builds on the notion that holiness is inspired by the word of God. It “thus belongs in a way to the prophetic tradition, wherein the word of God sets the prophet’s very life at its service. In this sense, holiness in the Church constitutes an interpretation of Scripture which cannot be overlooked. The Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred authors is the same Spirit who impels the saints to offer their lives for the Gospel. In striving to learn from their example, we set out on the sure way towards a living and effective hermeneutic of the word of God.” A simple reading of one line from St. Paul set Augustine on the path of conversion. It has repeated itself over and over in history.

The list in 2 Peter 1

Faith

Virtue

Knowledge

Self-Control

Steadfastness

Godliness

Brotherly affection

Love


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