keep breathing

Dec 16, 2020

Happy the one who does not lose faith
Luke 7:23

The “door of faith”
is always open for us,
ushering us into the life
of communion with God …
To enter through that door
is to set out on a journey
that lasts a lifetime.
Pope Benedict

The instruction to “keep faith” is a tough ask in the midst of the demands, routines and stresses of daily life.

The faith-keeping challenge is especially great if we make the mistake of thinking of faith as holding onto positive thoughts about a God who we wrongly imagine to be distant and elusive.

How can I keep a faith that I misunderstand as a tenuous link to a foreign world. How can live wrongly thinking that my faith is in a fickle divine presence that comes and goes as unreliably as warm and cool currents in an ocean.

If this is my understanding of faith then how can I possibly be faith-full? Where is the stability and security in that?

But what if faith is more like breathing? And what if keeping faith is more like keeping breathing?

Let me explain what I’m thinking.

If I choose to, I can hold my breath, but after a few seconds this becomes difficult and eventually and involuntarily I will gasp for breath. 

Breathing is something I do constantly and without thinking about it. However holding my breath takes concentration and effort, and the longer I try to hold my breath the more impossible it becomes until I gasp for breath.

I can improve my capacity to breathe, exercising and making a habit of breathing more deeply using the full capacity of my lungs and diaphragm. In this way I will be healthier and feel better. But even if I don’t try to breathe well, the natural fight to breathe remains strong in me.

Breathing is much easier than resisting breath.

Imagine faith in the same way.

Faith is like breathing. Too often we resist faith in order to grasp at what is superficial, we begin to struggle. Resisting faith, like holding breath, is hard work.

Having faith is like having breath.

Perhaps we make the mistake of thinking that we have faith in degrees. We might comment that our faith is weak or that we have little faith, but even the fact that we are thinking about faith and talking about faith is proof that we have faith.

In the same way that we are either breathing (alive) or not breathing (dead), so I believe that we either have faith or do not have faith.

When I am striving to live faith fully in relationship with Jesus Christ and with others then I am experiencing faith. However when I am resisting faith (either consciously or unconsciously) I still have faith – its just that I am resisting faith. And in the same way that holding my breath is hard work, this resistance of faith is also pretty tough going.

If we have trouble breathing it’s hard to think of anything else and we quickly seek a solution and commit to using whatever exercise or medication helps us to breathe again without agonising over every breath.

And now my conclusion is that every living person has faith, but some of us all of the time and all of us some of the time opt to live the more difficult way, by ignoring or resisting the faith that we have.

Much easier to go with our natural flow of faith, and keep breathing!

An Invitation

  • Every time you think of it over the next 24 hours become conscious of your breathing. Then appreciate that your faith is like your breathing, that is, you have it.
  • As you notice other people during the day remember that in the same way that you have faith, some moments flowing with it and other moments resisting, so too every other person is doing the same. When we accept this we are more likely to see the evidence.
  • Today you are breathing. Today you have faith.

5 Comments

  1. Cant remember not having faith /breathing, comes to mind, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

    Reply
  2. Thank you, Fr John, this really speaks to me. God Bless.

    Reply
  3. I like this from Pope Francis.
    ‘The spiritual life is fed, nourished, by prayer and is expressed outwardly through mission: inhaling and exhaling. When we inhale, by prayer, we receive the fresh air of the Holy Spirit. When exhaling this air, we announce Jesus Christ risen by the same Spirit. No one can live without breathing. It’s the same for the Christian: without praise and mission there is not Christian life.’
    Useful for that walk today.

    Reply
  4. I could not live without breathing, nor could I live without my faith.

    Reply
  5. Amen

    Reply

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