Friday, February 12, 2010
Of all the gifts of virtue which God bestows on us Faith is, perhaps, the most helpful. Faith is a gift, a decision, a perseverance, a conforming of the will to some set course. It is impossible to love and hope without faith... for how can one truly love something he doubts? How could one hope in what he does not believe? Faith is also a purpose, a motive that causes us to do for God what we would not otherwise do. It is a combatant of spiritual apathy and triggers a desire to be wise. If I had to offer one word of advice to someone in passing, that word would be Faith.
Some of us seem to be born with an integrated love of Christ and hope in His salvation. We grow up without the shadow of a doubt, merely increasing our understanding of our belief over time. Others of us, however, do not start with these virtues. We reach the age of reason without an emotional love of He Who Died and with more concentration on the present than hope in the future. For those of us who find this to be true of us, we know how necessary faith is for our eventual conversion.
The definition of faith is simple... believing in what we cannot see, or do not understand. To this definition I would add additional religious meaning: faith in God's presence and in His perfection. Faith is a combination of two things, mainly, denying our own intellects of doubt and denying our emotions of sovereignty over us. The first thing is simple, because to believe is to submit ourselves to something we have been told and have not figured out. The second is also simple. If we believe, for instance, that God is present without feeling or seeing Him, we are rising out of our animal reliance on sensory perception and choosing individual choice. This means, essentially, that we are reaching out to the fullness of our free wills: the ability to overcome even our own material nature by the spiritual.
People speak of freedom as freedom from government, slavery, laws, and other things. But, if we willingly submitted to these things, would we not call them freedoms because we have freely chosen them? We ourselves are just as constraining as these... ignorance, doubt, emotional hate, and other things are limitations on how free we are to use our intellects. By having faith, we overcome these limitations of our persons. We become free by making a personal choice to deny these limitations and follow God. Ignorance, doubt, and emotions no longer have power over us if we have decided, in spite of them, to be free to follow the direction of our wills through faith.
We further free ourselves of sin through faith by utilizing the merits of Christ's Sacrifice, thus freeing ourselves of limitations on how perfect we can be. We believe a set moral code and thus know how to choose right and avoid wrong. We believe in God's mercy and forgiveness and thus take measures to free ourselves of the burden of sin. We have faith in God's guidance, so we put ourselves into His Hands and He works through us so that we may reach the fullness of our vocations. We are all called to be saints, but by the very definition of sainthood we cannot reach such heights on our own. Only through faith can we reach the perfections of sainthood.
Faith, by definition, is believing without seeing. However, one who has faith will learn that believing truly is seeing. If we firmly believe in God and choose to follow Him, if we believe in His teachings, if we have faith in His constant presence, if we trust that He hears and answers our prayers, we come to greater understandings that would have been impossible without this foundation of belief! If we do our part by believing God at His word, we have the potential of seeing far deeper. For instance, if we believe that God created heaven and earth, we can believe all these things: He is self-sustaining, He is all-powerful, He Himself is not material as we are, He is all-knowing. Better yet, if we believe that Jesus is God, we can come to realize all these things: He really loves us, He is perfect, He told the truth in all things, He guides His Church from above, He rose again, He comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
Now you ask, where does the seeing come in? Thus far, it has been simply belief. If we believe that God is all-present, loves us, and listens to our prayers... if we pray to him with this consciousness... then it makes sense that He'll answer our prayers and work in our lives. Further, we shall come to recognize it. Some of you will see a contradiction here, but the contradiction must remain or faith would not be faith. We can only see as long as we believe, and when we stop believing we are blind and wander aimlessly.
However, the principles of faith lead into other, more complicated aspects of it. If we have chosen to follow God, then we will begin to see some limitations on our part. What if we do not really believe? What if we do not really love? What if we do not really have hope? Not to worry, faith can overcome these. God asks that we do these things, but He does not expect us to manipulate our own emotions! Rather, it is sufficient to say with faith in His understanding: I truly believe, I truly love, I truly hope; please increase my belief, my love, and my hope. In fact, the willful decision to speak these words is in itself an act of faith.
Before I move on, I shall share something from my personal life concerning this. When I was younger, I did not feel any love for Jesus. In fact, for a time all I had was my faith in His love of me. I wanted to return this love, but I could not seem to "feel" love for someone I could not see. So, I prayed that I loved completely and would give my life for Him long, long before those feelings really existed, praying additionally that He would increase my love. But is not this a more perfect love and trusting than if my whole being felt love of Him?
Some may begin to grumble at this concept of faith. What is to motivate a person to believe so much? To put himself on the line for God? Well, if I know that my entire being desires something, and then believe that this desire will be fulfilled through faith, I've found a perfect motive for having faith! I still must step off a cliff and believe, but with this action simultaneously comes motive.
With faith comes many things... direction, purpose, and wisdom are three of these things. Through faith find our vocations and live saintly lives on earth, only to be supremely happy with God in heaven. Through faith we overcome our difficulties and rise out of the troubles and sorrows of life. We feel sorrow, but we share it with Christ and it becomes sweet. We suffer, but Christ stays with us and whispers the promise of eternal happiness. In the end, the price of faith is small compared the fullness of life we reach through this denial of ourselves! Take the step and have faith. Taste and see!