What is Faith? Paradox #2 - Part ll
By Linda Kracht
There are zillions of pithy one-liners that try and capture the essence of faith. At first glance they may seem clever and spot on but after closer introspection, they come across as deceptive and shallow. Not one of them can begin to capture the essence of FAITH but yet they try. For example consider the following postings: “Faith is like wi-fi; its invisible but is has the power to connect you to what you need.” [TheDailyQuote.com] And another: “Faith is the bridge between where I am and the place where God is taking me.” Or this one: “Faith plants the seed and love makes it grow.” “Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.” Finally this one: “Faith makes all things possible, love makes all things easy, and hope makes all things work.”
Again, at first glance each of these ditties seem to capture an element of what many people refer to as faith. But what type of faith is that? Everyone has some kind of belief system which requires a degree of faith - they either believe in themselves, someone else or something else! People even put their faith and trust in the ridiculous like pots of gold at the end of rainbows, fairies, and magicians. But that faith is entirely different from Faith - a Great Paradox.
So what is Faith and how is it a paradox? The Catholic Catechism teaches us that Faith is a “gift from God and a human act.” God invites our response (Faith); in turn, we give our assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. [CCC - F; page 878] Note that Faith requires that we give our heart fully to this Divine Revelation. We don’t just believe in bits and pieces; in such case we will have set ourselves up as the judge or arbiter of who God is and who God isn’t; what He does and what He does not do. By setting conditions on our belief about God we have essentially set ourselves up as greater than God Himself.
Faith requires a two-way communication between God and mankind. We need His revelation in order to believe; He needs our assent to His invitation to Faith in order to allow it to percolate and grow. Part and parcel of the Divine Revelation was the formation of His Church to carry on after Jesus ascended into Heaven. The Church has given us the tools by which we give public and private assent to our Faith. This includes the way we worship God, receive His Divine Grace, pray, seek Forgiveness, and live.
Father Wilfrid Stinissen wrote that “faith gives us new eyes to discover the divine reality. Faith sees through the outer shell and penetrates to the substance of things. Faith reveals new areas of reality [the Trinity, angels, and so on] but faith also enable us to see everything we encounter in a completely new way. It sees the deep dimension of daily events.” [Magnificat, March 16, 2015. p. 264.]
And that is why the ditties posted in the beginning of this article fail to give true meaning to Faith. They fail to get beyond the outer shell of Faith. They fail to capture the two way relationship between us and God - a requirement for Faith. In other words, God does not impose His gift of Faith on us any more than we can get Faith all by ourselves. The ditties also fail to regard the necessity of Divine Revelation. They fail to take into account our assent of the full Divine Revelation. They fail to take into account the role of the Church in developing and helping to form and fortify our personal relationships with God. They fail to take into account our obedient responses to His call to Faith. They fail to take into account our obligations that necessarily prevail upon us when we claim to be living a life of Faith. These obligations include striving to become more and more obedient and accepting of God’s Grand Plan, His Will, His natural and supernatural Laws, and His unconditional Love as we grow in Faith, Hope and Love. Speaking of the theological virtues, the ditties also fail to capture the route by which faith naturally produces Hope and Charity and visa versa.
So, what is Faith? It is seeing God and the whole of His Grand Plan and Design as we see air, molecules, space, and all that remains unseen but are ever present. Faith is a paradox because while we can’t prove it, we know God is as real as are the things that we can see. And so with eyes of faith, we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” [2 Corinthians 4:18] And “we live by faith and not by sight. “ [2 Corinthians 5:7] “For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” [Romans 8:24] And “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
These wise words help us to better understand what faith is on a practical level and they come directly from those who walked with God the Son while he was on earth teaching us about himself.