“Unless you have believed in vain” 1 Corinthians 15: 2.
Dear Brethren: The Apostle appears to be of a different mind from some of us, who seem to think that there is no such thing as believing in vain. Do not sinners rest quite secure in their wickedness just because they believe in the true religion ? Do they not feel sure of salvation because they know how to be saved ? Is not the blessed privilege of the holy faith the secret reason of many a person’s delay of repentance ? It is against all such that St. Paul stands when he speaks of a vain faith; and our Blessed Lord himself when he says that pagan Tyre and Sidon shall rise up in witness against those who had the true religion and used it only to puff themselves up with spiritual pride.
To be guilty of an unused faith is the high-road to eternal loss among Catholics. Some poor souls will be lost because, though born in error, they have refused to follow the light of reason into the church. But we shall be lost, if at all, because we have believed in vain. Some outside of the church shall be lost because they have sinned even against the simplest precepts of nature’s law. But we shall be condemned for believing all that our Lord revealed and making it vain by our wicked deeds. A vain faith is like the background of a picture : the eye catches and dwells on the objects in the foreground, but these could not be seen clearly but for the tints in the background against which they are drawn. So what we do will one day be contrasted with what we know; the strong light of faith will only cause the black, filthy sins of our life to be more fully revealed to the Judge.
Have you never seen a blind man whose eyes seemed perfectly good, clear, and bright, and yet utterly blind? There is such a kind of blindness ; some men really have eyes and see not, because the nerve is dead, and the nerve is like the soul of the eye. So with our faith : God gave it to us to see by and walk by and live by; to know his law and live up to it; to know our sins and to confess them with true sorrow—in a word, to practice what we know that we ought to practice. But some become like the idols of the nations you read of in one of the Vesper psalms: “They have eyes, and see not; they have ears, and hear not.” Wicked Catholics perceive the right way ; they hear of the dangers of the wrong way, and go right along with this knowledge, and neglect prayer and Mass, blaspheme and fight, get drunk and debauch, and steal, yet having all the time full assurance that somehow or other their faith will save them. Brethren, their faith is vain; their hope of eternal life is not reasonable or well founded; the beauty of the truth they possess is like the cold beauty of a corpse, which makes one shudder only the more from its incongruity with the putrid decay so surely approaching.
Yet how rich a treasure is the true faith! What a comfort to know the truths of religion! What a privilege to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to be in communion with him, his Blessed Mother, his glorious saints, his holy church! What a perversity, then, to use all this as a burglar uses his rope-ladder: a means of making a criminal life more secure. But it cannot be. It is a delusion. There is no means of making a criminal life secure, except by turning quickly away from it, detesting it, confessing it, and, by the light of faith and the strength of charity, leading a good life.
An Excerpt From :
Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul. Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year. Vol. 2. [S.l.]: Catholic Publication Society, 1886. Print. pg 435-437
Presumption, Sermon, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, 1 Corinthians 15, Short Sermon