‘The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Lk17.5). The father of the boy with a deaf and dumb spirit, when challenged by the Lord about his faith, said to the Lord: “I believe: help my unbelief” (Mk 9.24). In the Baptismal Rite, the Priest asks the catechumen: “what do you want?” and the response is “faith”. So we get faith in the Sacrament of Baptism, but we need to grow in this faith. We find the apostles asking the Lord to help them increase their faith. We too need to pray daily for an increase of faith. “It is the Holy Spirit who gives the grace of faith” (CCC 1102). We are called to live the faith from our baptism till death.
But we are living in a time when faith is vanishing from the life of many. Jesus foreknew this and hence asked: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18.8).
People usually think that Faith is mere intellectual understanding which is notional faith and not faith as applied to our daily life; and therefore our faith is not effective in our practical life. Our faith becomes effective when we live what we notionally believe.
What is faith? The Holy Scripture tells that ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb.11.1). In the Creed we profess and proclaim this faith in ‘the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen’: ‘we believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our God……in the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of our body, and life everlasting.” We can profess to believe, yet our actions fail to reflect it !
St. James says: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder” (Jas. 2.19). We understand from this that just believing in God is not sufficient. If‘I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth…’ I should respond to this belief by loving Him and giving Him due honour, Adoration and worship.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: “faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself”. (CCC 1814)
Let us reflect on few things, ‘God has said and revealed’:
“I am who I am;…I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind….I told that you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he….” (Ex. 20,2-3; Mt. 22,37; Jn.8,24)
Do I believe and respond to this revelation of God? How do I respond to this belief?
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jer. 31,3).
“….you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you…”(Is. 43,4)
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Is.49,15)
If I believe in this love of my Creator God, why should I be depressed and downtrodden because of lack of love from parents and others?
“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh.1,9).
“I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt.28,20)
Do I experience the presence of God with me always?
If I believe these truths revealed by God, my attitude towards God, myself and others will be different. “Faith is man’s response to God” (CCC 26). I need to respond to these truths in my thoughts, convictions and behaviour. We see many people living in sorrow or inferiority complex because they were not loved and appreciated by others; many are wounded by the rejection of their parents; many living in fear of varied sorts….Does not this show our lack of faith in God and in what He has ‘said and revealed’? We need to grow in faith through prayer and growing in the knowledge of the Word of God. Then we can have faith-filled expressions.
God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?” (Numb.23,9). Whatever the Lord has ‘said and revealed’ become a reality in my life, if I respond to the truth in faith.
St. Paul tells that ‘shield of faith’ is one of the important weapons which we need to use in our spiritual warfare. With this armour we “will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6,16). We need to use the shield of faith in His Promises, be convinced of His love and come out of the negative feelings. Here the influence of the evil one is ‘quenched’. Faith in the Lord and in His never failing Word can ‘put out the flames of the evil’ which comes in the form of temptation and other negative attitudes.
Some practical tips:
When the enemy shows doubts about the Word of God, I should have the faith that God does not tell lies and He is ever faithful to his promises. (Numb.23.19, Mk.13,31).
When the enemy tempts me with the desires of the world, I should have the faith that reminds me that eternal happiness is worth sacrificing the temporal pleasures which are passing.
When the enemy tempts me to the slippery paths of occult, I should have the faith that the only way is Jesus, and that even if I gain the whole world, it does not profit me if I lose my soul (Mt.16,26).
When I am gripped with depression about my broken childhood of rejection and un-wantedness, I should have the faith in the Word of God that “if my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up” (Ps.27,10 ; also see Is.49,15).
When I am paralysed with the thought that I am good for nothing, the faith in God’s Word that ‘I am a child of God’(1 Jn.3,1), and I am ‘precious in his sight, and honoured and he loves me’ (Is.43,4) should help me accept myself, as I am the handiwork of God.
When I have fear and lack confidence, my faith in His Word should raise me up: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh.1,9). “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4,13)
So our faith in the Word of God and our acting accordingly is the antidote against the tactics of the evil one.
Once a lady came to me sharing her pain and sorrow because of her husband calling her once ‘monkey’. She lost her self image from that day and she did not want to look into the face mirror and was walking always, putting her head down. I told her what her dignity is before the eyes of God, as she is the ‘apple of His eyes’; and told her to read Isaiah 43,4. She became radiant with joy. She realised the truth that for her Creator God, who is her real husband (Is.54,5) she is precious and honoured even though in the eyes of her earthly husband, she is like a ‘monkey’.
Yes, we should be, not only the hearers and readers of the Word of God, but be the believers in the Word and be responding to it in our thoughts, words and actions. Such should be our faith-filled life. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11,6). In the gospel narrative of the healing of woman who was suffering from haemorrhage for twelve years, we find the woman with the faith: “if only I touch His cloak, I will be made well” (Mt 9.21), she “came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped.” (Lk.8.44). Thereupon Jesus said: “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me” (46). It is our faith, which unlocks the power of God. We must confess the truths of our faith, believe in them and act accordingly.
St. Paul says: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom.10,17). The Church also teaches us: “By the saving word of God, faith is nourished in the hearts of believers….The proclamation does not stop with a teaching; it elicits the response of faith as consent and commitment, directed at the covenant between God and his people” (CCC 1102). “Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. (CCC 162)
We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1.18, 19). To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the Word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith” (CCC 162).
Whatever gifts and talents that we have received from God are to be used and multiplied (cfr. The Parable of the Talents). We have a responsibility to live our faith and to help others to grow in faith. As At. Paul tells: “What you have heard from me through many witnesses, entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach to others as well” (2 Tim. 2,2). This is the way to spread faith. So we have no time to waste. Satan’s trick is to take away the Word of God from us and to make us lose faith. “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4,3-4).
“Faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbour impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.” (CCC 166).
Fr. Raniero Cantalamesse, ofmcap, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household, said while explaining the ‘Parable of the Talents’ (Mt. 25,14-30): “Today´s faith and the Sacraments are the talents that we Christians have received. How are we making use of these talents?
The fruits of the natural talents become irrelevant to us when we die; the fruits of the spiritual talents follow us into eternity and they will gain us the approval of the Divine Judge: “Well done, good and faithful servant”.