Grace to you!
Recently, a onetime atheist shared with me a powerful testimony about how he received the gift of faith. He is a very brilliant fellow, whose knack for mathematical reasoning is exceptional. According to him, there were deep-seated questions within him concerning the meaning of life, which he couldn’t answer.
One day, he bumped into the spiritual writings of great Catholic mystics like Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena. He gulped their contents like a deer does fresh water. Though as someone without prior religious background (he simply wasn’t exposed to it), he didn’t know what they were saying, except that within him, he felt something positively different about what he was reading. God was nurturing his mind for a deeper encounter.
His faith-journey could be compared to that of Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), the great German Jewish philosopher (student of Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology), whose readings about Christian classics stirred her heart to faith. From reading about the life and faith-journey of the saints, this young man came to the inner joy he was looking for. This led him to search for a church, a long journey that eventually led him to the Catholic Church.
The first time he participated at Mass, he said: “I felt, this is it.” He found what he was searching for. He discovered his heart’s desire. The gift of faith is wonderful, isn’t it?
Nonetheless, every faith journey comes with a price. A growing faith has to be tested. His was. Thank God he survived it.
When we receive the gift of faith, we certainly believe in God and His revelations. We pass through those initial experiences of joy. Then the journey and moments of deepening begin. It’s different for everyone, though certainly those moments will come. It is at those moments we realize how little is our faith.
The apostles of Jesus too, the bible tells us, are men of little faith like us; hence they prayed: “Lord, Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). The response of Jesus is key here: If you have the faith as small as the mustard seed, you can move mountains or the mulberry tree.
We often think of faith in terms of quantity but Jesus teaches something different. It is not the quantity of our faith that matters, but the quality of it. Thus, the best description of the faith that moves mountains, the size of a mustard seed is genuine faith. It is the faith that is simple and complete in sincere trust and love. That is the faith that endures through trying moments.
It is the kind of faith a baby has in her mother, always confident of mom’s affection, provision and love. It is the genuine faith that says, ‘good or bad, God is in charge.’ Call it blind faith, yet is sees; it holds on and it is trustingly confident in divine providence.
It is the kind of faith of the three men in the heart of the fire (Ananias, Azarias and Mizael) that made them tell Nebuchadnezzar (symbol of anti-God policy) at his face that if our God wants to save us, He will; but, if not, we are not going to serve you (Daniel 3: 17-18). It is the kind of faith that does not compromise good principles no matter the consequences.
It is the kind of faith that made Abraham (Gen12:1ff) move, without questioning, to an unknown land just because God spoke to him. It is the kind of faith expressed by people in the person of Job, who passed through the most severe trials and yet declared: “I know my redeemer lives.” (Job 19:17).
It is the kind of faith demonstrated by people like Saint Damien of Molokai, who despite the glaring dangers of leprosy, was not deterred to serve God in his fellow human beings. It’s faith rooted in God, driven by hope and charity.
Scripture announcing the blessing of this kind of faith says: “The just one, because of his faith, shall live.” (Habakkuk 2:4). I’m all for it. Would you, therefore, pray with me for it: “Lord, Increase our faith.” Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.