List of points

There are 5 points in Friends of God refer to Authenticity.

But to return to our subject. I was saying just now that though you might achieve spectacular success in society, in public affairs, in your own careers, if you neglect your spiritual life and ignore Our Lord you will end up a complete failure. As far as God is concerned — and in the last analysis that is the only thing that matters — victory only comes to those who strive to behave as genuine Christians. There is no middle way. That is why you find so many people who from a human point of view ought to be ever so happy, yet they go about uneasy and embittered. They appear to be overflowing with happiness, but just scratch beneath the surface of their souls and you will discover a bitterness more bitter than gall. This will not happen to us, provided we really try, day in day out, to do God's will, to give him glory, and praise him and spread his kingdom to all mankind.

It makes me very sad to see a Catholic — a child of God, called by Baptism to be another Christ — calming his conscience with a purely formal piety, with a religiosity that leads him to pray now and again, and only if he thinks it worthwhile! He goes to Mass on holidays of obligation — though not all of them — while he cares punctiliously for the welfare of his stomach and never misses a meal. He is ready to compromise in matters of faith, to exchange his faith for a platter of lentils, rather than give up his job… And then he impudently or scandalously seeks to climb up in the world on the strength of being a Christian. No! Let us not live on labels. I want you to be genuine, solid Christians; and to become such you will have to be unswerving in your search for suitable spiritual food.

Personal experience shows, and you have often heard me tell you so, to warn you against discouragement, that our interior life consists in beginning again and again each day; and you know in your hearts, as I do in mine, that the struggle is never ending. You will have noticed too, when making your examination of conscience just as I do (excuse these personal references, but even as I am speaking to you I am going over the needs of my own soul with Our Lord) that you often experience little setbacks, which at times perhaps may seem to you enormous, revealing as they do an evident lack of love, of self-surrender to God, of a spirit of sacrifice, of refinement. Well, strengthen your yearning for reparation, with a sincere act of contrition, but please do not lose your peace of mind.

There is a certain type of secularist outlook that one comes across, and also another approach which one might call 'pietistic', both of which share the view that Christians somehow are not fully and entirely human. According to the former, the demands of the Gospel are such as to stifle our human qualities; whereas for the latter, human nature is so fallen that it threatens and endangers the purity of the faith. The result, either way, is the same. They both fail to grasp the full significance of Christ's Incarnation, they do not see that 'the Word was made flesh', became man, 'and dwelt amongst us'.

My experience as a man, as a Christian and as a priest, teaches me just the opposite. There is no human heart, no matter how deeply immersed in sin, which does not conceal, like embers among the ashes, a flicker of nobility. Whenever I have sounded out such hearts, talking to them individually with the words of Christ, they have always responded.

In this world of ours there are many people who neglect God. It may be that they have not had an opportunity to listen to his words, or that they have forgotten them. Yet their human dispositions are honest, loyal, compassionate and sincere. I would go so far as to say that anyone possessing such qualities is ready to be generous with God, because human virtues constitute the foundation for the supernatural virtues.

It is true that in themselves such personal qualities are not enough, for no one is saved without the grace of Christ. But if a man fosters and cultivates the seeds of virtue within him, God will smooth out his path, and such a person will be able to become holy because he has known how to live as a man of good will.

You may perhaps have noticed other cases which are in a certain sense just the opposite; so many people who call themselves Christians because they have been baptised and have received other sacraments, but then prove to be disloyal and deceitful, insincere and proud, and… they fail to achieve anything. They are like shooting stars, lighting up the sky for an instant and then falling away to nothing.

If we accept the responsibility of being children of God, we will realise that God wants us to be very human. Our heads should indeed be touching heaven, but our feet should be firmly on the ground. The price of living as Christians is not that of ceasing to be human or of abandoning the effort to acquire those virtues which some have even without knowing Christ. The price paid for each Christian is the redeeming Blood of Our Lord and he, I insist, wants us to be both very human and very divine, struggling each day to imitate him who is perfectus Deus, perfectus homo.

In order to practise the human virtues, we need to make a sustained effort, since it is not easy to maintain a spirit of honesty and integrity for any length of time when faced with situations that seem to put our own safety at risk. Take truthfulness, a virtue so clean and pure. Can it be true that it has fallen into disuse? Has the practice of compromise, of 'gilding the pill' and 'putting on a show' finally triumphed? People are afraid of the truth and to justify their attitude they make the shabby excuse that no one practises or tells the truth any more, that everyone has to resort to pretence and lies.

Fortunately this is not so. There are many people, Christians or not, who are ready to sacrifice honour and reputation for the sake of the truth, people who aren't always feverishly turning this way and that in search of 'the warmest place in the sun'. These are the very people who, because they love the truth, are happy to put things right when they discover they have made a mistake; whereas those who begin by lying, those for whom the truth has become merely a high-sounding word to cover up their baseness, such people refuse to make amends.

References to Holy Scripture