The Gift of Faith

29 Apr

gift of faithAs I seem to be in dialogue so frequently with friends and relatives these days who have lost the faith (or never had it to begin with), I recently had the occasion to review my response to this question that I received via email a couple years ago: “Does everyone receive the gift of faith? Why or why not?”

During this “Year of Faith,” I think it’s especially important for to consider these most fundamental questions.

What follows is my response to the questioner. I welcome others’ comments and insights on this subject.

“If we mean by ‘faith’ an explicit belief in the person and teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, then clearly not everyone has received the gift of faith. That’s why the Church’s perennial mission is evangelization–to offer the gift of faith to all men and women. All of us play a role in that effort.

“And while we cannot judge the state of individual souls, it would also seem that there are those who have been invited, but have rejected the invitation (cf. Lk. 14:15-24).

“While I cannot pretend to know ‘God’s thoughts’ on this, as my thoughts are not His thoughts and my ways are not His ways (Is. 55:8-9), I would like to offer a couple observations that shed light on this crucial issue.

“First, faith is very much a personal gift. We all are called to answer for ourselves Our Lord’s question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Mt. 16:15). If someone were to offer us a $100 bill, no strings attached, we might wonder why others weren’t given a similar offer, but at the end of the day we still have to accept or reject the offer that was personally made to us.

“Second, God wills that all be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim. 2:4). The ordinary way that this occurs is through the gift of faith received at Baptism. However, God does not place limits on Himself. He is all good and willed the existence of every man and woman who has ever lived. So, the Church holds out the possibility of salvation to all those who have not knowingly and willingly rejected Him. In that regard, perhaps the parable of the talents is useful. As Catholics we have been given 10 talents, so more is expected of us. However, those who were given only 5 or 2 or even just 1 talent will be judged worthy to enter our heavenly Father’s kingdom if he or she fruitfully uses whatever talents they were given.

“How God works with those who do not have explicit faith is a mystery that’s beyond us in this life, but surely we know that a person is better off with faith and with all the graces that derive from being a faithful disciple of Christ. Indeed, we were made for life with God as Christ’s brothers and sisters, so using our ‘10 talents’ well involves our inviting those around us to the wonderful life of grace that God has in store for us in this life and in the next.”

5 Responses to “The Gift of Faith”

  1. rwarnell April 29, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Perhaps we need to take to heart what Pope Francis has said about “mission” and an “outward focused” church.

    Do we see ourselves as people who engage in certain “religious” practices and acts of personal piety, or do we see ourselves as active participants in the mission of Jesus proclaiming the Reign of God “on earth as it is in heaven”, reconciling all of creation to the Father by living out the pattern of his life, death, and resurrection in our own lives (and in our parish communities) in the power of the Holy Spirit?

    Are we focused on “going to Heaven”, or do we see ourselves as bringing the life of Heaven to Earth?

    Rather than be long winded, I would quote the late Fr. Brennan Manning:

    “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

    “We need to join Magdalene and Peter in witnessing that Christianity is not primarily a moral code but a grace-laden mystery; it is not essentially a philosophy of love but a love affair; it is not keeping rules with clenched fists but receiving a gift with open hands.

  2. Leon Suprenant April 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Good points, Ross. Obviously my response/post was directed to the question regarding why some people have received the gift of an explicit Christian faith and others haven’t. To your point, those intent on “going to heaven” tend to be better Christians on earth. If we want to walk a straight line in the snow to a distant tree, we tend to do better if we focus on the goal rather than on each individual step. That said, of course a faith that’s simply about rules or religious observance isn’t the type of life-changing, love-motivated Christianity that we’re talking about . . .

    • rwarnell April 29, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      And my point is faith is “caught”, not “taught” and how we can be better and more effective bearers of the gift. I suspect we’re on the same sheet of music singing harmony.

  3. Leon Suprenant April 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Amen!

  4. Carolyn May 24, 2013 at 11:43 am #

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