Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Increase Our Faith

“Lord, increase our faith” was the request of the Apostles.[1] We, likewise, when we consider the essential truths outlined in the Creed, when we pray the words taught us by the Lord, realize our own need and pray for our faith to be increased in a measure that allows us to believe and commit ourselves more deeply, more assuredly, to realities that otherwise escape us.

Naturally speaking, faith doesn’t make a lot of sense. Faith, the light of grace, defies natural reasoning. Faith, though it is an assent of the intellect, moves beyond the realm of natural knowledge. Faith, although it is something that cannot be measured in inches, quarts, or pounds, is nonetheless an important player in the world of weights and measurements. Faith, this moving beyond natural reasoning, lies at the heart of contemplative prayer, any sort of prayer, any sort of religious belief.

“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and all that he has said and revealed to us, and that the Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God. For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will.”[2]

He’s been dead and gone for quite a while now but I’ll never forget the title of a sermon that he preached as an old, old man. His sermon was entitled “Faith, Life’s Great Essential.” He talked about how faith outlines and gives dimension to the lives we live. The aged pastor, in his sermon, pondered how anyone could possible approach life in the world as we know it without a vital, personal faith in God.

It was over twenty years ago when I heard that simple sermon from the heart of an old man. He’d seen the world change a lot during his life. It’s changed a lot more over these past twenty plus years. The changes are now happening exponentially and it’s more than a little frightening when we take time to think about it. We have so much more reason to ponder the importance of living with a vital, personal faith in God in such a degenerating world.

Faith is, after all, the vehicle that carries us to understanding that which is otherwise un-understandable, not that we will ever understand it fully. “The mystery of life’s end, and the even greater mystery of life’s beginning, the ebb and flow of things beginning and things ending, the steady succession of the sadness of Fall and the glad promise of Spring, prevent the unfettered and uncluttered mind from missing what these were meant to make clear: a life without beginning to explain all beginnings, a life without end to explain death; an infinite Creditor of life to explain all the reckless loan of life to the living.”[3]

Merton tells us that “faith is the opening of an inward eye, the eye of the heart, to be filled with the presence of Divine light. Ultimately faith is the only key to the universe. The final meaning of human existence, and the answers to questions on which all our happiness depends cannot be reached in any other way.”[4] Fetters must be broken and clutter must be removed to allow faith’s measure opportunity in our lives.[5]

[1] Luke 17:5
[2] CCC, #1814
[3] My Way of Life, The Summa Simplified, p. 5
[4] New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 130
[5] Matthew 13:31