“When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him. ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this.'”
Without a doubt one of the greatest highlights of the year for me has been finding faith in the most unexpected of places and in people who say they have no faith or very weak faith.
Our problem is that we usually misunderstand faith, reducing the adventure and beauty of Christian life to religious practice and moral virtue. It’s inspiring to be astonished like Jesus when finding faith in unlikely people and places.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticising religion or virtue and in no way am I downplaying them since these provide essential environments of growth for those who are serious about living more abundantly in relationship with Jesus Christ and in community with others.
Religious practice and moral virtue are reliable evidence of integrity, showing that our faith is not isolated from what our bodies are doing.
My experience in my own life and learning from others has convinced me that faith is not something we have in degrees, and therefore there is not strong faith and weak faith. There is simply faith, and we either have it or we don’t have it.
Difficulties and doubts are not a sign that we are without faith or that our faith is weak.
American novelist Anne Lamott puts it well:
“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns”.
I often think that Christian faith is a bit like breathing. Everyone in the room is breathing, but some might be struggling a bit because of asthma or as a result of breathlessness.
To continue the breathing analogy a bit, I can do a lot to help my breathing. I can exercise. I might find a place where the air is cleaner and less toxic. I find my breathing is easier and deeper after a decent sleep or when drinking less and eating healthier. There are also good exercises which can help my breathing.
In the same way maturing faith also requires exercise. Taking time to remember and to savour the fact that in the ups and especially the downs of life I am not alone, Jesus is with me, is a great way to shift perspective beyond my own little world to the sustaining presence of God present and active in my life.
Faith is a reality that is certain (ref. Catechism below), because God gives the certainty. Faith is not a human achievement, it is a divine gift, given and received in Baptism. Faith is lived whenever we sense that God is present and real, interested and loving.
When we take time to notice we realise that there is a lot more faith around than we might have thought.
Thanks be to God!
- Live today accepting that you are a person of faith. The simple fact that you have read this FFF reflection this far is but one proof that you are wanting to live in deeper relationship with Jesus.
- Make a decision to look for evidence of faith in every person you meet today. Enjoy being astonished whenever you unexpectedly find evidence of faith.
- Take a moment today when you are stopped at the lights or stuck in traffic to savour the gift of faith that Jesus has given to you. Enjoy the certainty that this knowledge gives.
- The FFF Advent reflections began yesterday with some great comments from readers. Thank you to those who take a moment or two to share a thought. You have little idea how much others will be encouraged by your reflections.
156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”. (St. Thomas Aquinas, cf. Dei Filius 3:DS 3008).
157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.” “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” (John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia pro vita sua 239.)