Most of us tackle the theme of Faith with some trepidation. We do believe yet after so many years of expressing that belief in multiple forms, we try to analyze the depth of that Faith and increasingly doubts creep up in our minds. Do I believe strongly enough after all these years? Am I a witness of my true Catholic faith to others? If l am tested, really tested, by serious illness, by big temptations, or by closeness to death, do I believe and trust to the extent that with God's Grace I will be faithful till the end? These and many other similar questions may fill our minds and hearts as we go on with our regular life and try to put into practice daily the Faith we have cultivated for years. Belief or Faith, is then a process that never ends but one that connects us and centers us with the God who is the essence of our identity.
There are many, many definitions of Faith and you may have your own, either from the time you learned your first Catechism till now as an adult who has tried to enrich your spiritual life with insights from spiritual directors and specialized book on spiritual growth. The CATHECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH says "Faith is a gift of God, supernaturally infused by Him at Baptism, a response to God who has revealed Himself in Jesus. It is the assent of intellect and will to this God who has revealed Himself in Jesus" (CCC #142 and ff). As we read the CATHECHISM we are given the qualities of faith as a human personal act in this God and in what has been revealed. Faith has then a twofold reference, to God and to the truth which is revealed. It is a GIFT or a GRACE which we are not able to acquire by ourselves and which certainly do not merit. It is both personal and ecclesial. The Church engenders, supports, and nourishes our own personal Faith. The famous words of the early Father of the Church, St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, North Africa (200 to 258 AD), are a testament of this interaction from the very beginning of our Catholic Tradition. St. Cyprian says: "No one can have God as a Father who does not have the Church as a Mother" (De Unit. 6, Pl 4, 519).
FAITH requires a high maintenance. One just cannot believe and do nothing about it. FAITH must be tended, fed, tested, tried, in order to remain vital and viable. That is what we read in the Scriptures, as St. Paul, who had a keen understanding of what Faith was for him and for the Church, tells the early Community of Christians, in the person of his spiritual son Timothy. It is a great reading that we have this Sunday, in the Second Reading, and the words are very real and very practical. Paul says: "Stir into flame the gift of Faith you have received" (2 Tim. 1: 6). That the Apostles understood the importance and the necessity of the gift of Faith, is dearly evidenced in their request, which could also be our own request to Jesus from the Gospel of today (Luke 17: 5): "Increase our Faith". All of us strive to be attuned to God's power so that our Faith may increase. How do you do that? Most certainly by having God at the center of our lives in everything we do. It is developed through our intimate relationship with God's only Son, Jesus, holding as a treasure the Deposit of Faith handed down to us through the Apostles and being taught faithfully by the Magisterium of the Church, but also through our fidelity to the state of life where we are: Love, marriage, birth, commitments, children, sacramental life, and all the ordinary events of our daily Living: working, shopping, driving, buying, selling, working, coping ... The ordinary things of life being made and done extraordinarily well, again, with God at the center of everything we are and we do.
Our Faith is a process. The increase of Faith we seek may take a lifetime. There will be ups and downs, with sin lurking at every corner but with God providing every opportunity for His Grace to shine in us. It is ours for the asking. The only thing required is OPENNESS to the action of the Holy Spirit that indeed causes the increase of our Faith. Through Faith we are able to see in the midst of our darkness as we attempt to listen to HIS VOICE, calling us to our best self, to that holiness imprinted in us at Baptism.
So, "Stir the flame of that Gift of Faith in you". (2 Tim. 1:6). What are you waiting for?
May God's peace be with you,