I don’t know about you, but I have often struggled with such common phrases and questions in our Catholic tradition (small “t”) such as, “He has strayed away from the faith” or “She is a woman of faith” or “Do you have the faith?”
What do we really mean when we speak about “the faith?” In my experience rubbing shoulders with many Catholics over the years, it is obvious to me that we would have a variety of answers.
For me, faith is primarily a relationship, a relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Too often we tend to limit faith to believing certain truths or teachings.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (ccc150).
Believing what the Church teaches is part of what faith is about, but faith is so much more than belief. Faith is not just what happens in our heads, but it is an ever-growing relationship with the One who loves us and has saved us. It is not enough to believe things about Jesus, we need to believe in Him and get to know Him in the many ways He reveals Himself to us.
In the Hebrew Bible “to know” someone was to have an intimate relationship with that person. For example, when the angel appeared to Mary to say she was going to be the mother of the Savior she asked how that could possibly happen since she did not “know” man. It was obvious that she was thinking about something more than a head-trip!
Sometimes I hear persons say that they received their faith at Baptism. That is true, but Baptism only plants the seeds of faith. They must grow throughout our lives. Just as in marriage, the wedding is only the beginning of a life-long relationship. If it does not grow, it will surely become stagnant. All relationships, including the one we began with Christ in Baptism, must be nurtured and sustained.
In my ministry I have worked with Christians from other denominations who can tell you the exact time, date and place when they were “saved” or accepted Jesus into their lives. Those occurrences are memorable but they are only beginnings. The challenge is to accept and meet the Lord in the many people and events of our daily lives. We cannot earn salvation, but we are called to live the Gospel message with Jesus as our friend and guide.
It would be sad to define myself as a Catholic Christian primarily because I go to Mass and believe the truths of our faith and NOT have a conscious, loving relationship with Jesus and His people. It would be like having a spouse that I knew a lot of facts about but didn’t really know him or her as a person.
So, how do we develop this primary relationship and make Jesus a personal part of our daily life? It sounds very elementary, but it boils down to this for me. We have to communicate with God regularly and spend some of our precious quality time in prayer. Like other relationships we need to be with God. We need to read God’s Word in the Bible, talk to God in our own words, and listen to God in the quiet of our own hearts. And it means being fed on Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, which is the center of our faith.
In this hectic, fast-moving society, it is crucial that we slow down and spend time with the Lord. Otherwise we will remain mediocre Christians without a strong foundation.
Let us accept the challenge to examine our faith, to evaluate our relationship with Jesus and strive to know and love Him more deeply. He is always here waiting for us. Connect with Him today. Don’t wait until you “have time.”
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