April 09, 2010

On Faith

Having risen with Christ, we are able to make a new start. Where, then, shall we begin? As St. Augustine wrote, "we begin in faith".

Faith is a gift of God. It is not something that comes from within us, not something we make ourselves have or do. It can feel that way, but St. Augustine explains why it cannot be that way:

"For, as a man who kills himself must, of course, be alive when he kills himself, but after he has killed himself ceases to live, and cannot restore himself to life; so, when a man by his own free-will sinned, then sin being victorious over him, the freedom of his will was lost."

If we kill ourselves physically, we don't have the power to return to life on our own. Similarly, if we kill ourselves spiritually, we don't have the power to return to spiritual life on our own. Faith must come from somewhere (someone) else. What's the practical application of this? If nothing else, it means God deserves our gratitude! If you have faith in God, you owe that to Him.

Even if you have had faith all your life and never lost it, it was gifted to you at baptism. Your parents asked for it, the priest said the words, the congregation witnessed it (or whatever your particular valid circumstances were) - but it was *given* by God. You would not thank a surgeon's instruments for saving your life but ignore the surgeon.

If you came to faith, or returned to it, later, you had to will it. does that mean you gave yourself the gift? Certainly not. God prepared your heart to receive the gift of faith. You must be offered a gift from someone else before you can will to accept it. (Do you walk into your birthday party with outstretched arms, expecting your gifts, or do you wait for someone to offer a gift?)

Again, where does this take us? I would hope it takes each of us to profound gratitude. I suspect we all take our faith for granted, especially after many years pass. Think on St. Augustine's words and remind yourself that faith is a gift, not something you grasped but something that was lovingly handed to you by God. There are many who have not been given that gift or given only a small part of it. Worse, there are many handed the gift only to throw it away unopened.

Thank God today for the great gift of your Catholic faith, for the work He has done in your heart to let you have faith in Him.

St. Augustine. The Enchiridion. Available from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm. Internet;  accessed 7 April 2010.

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