By Mike Nnamah
Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fall, but the righteous shall live by faith: Hab 2:4. At that time; the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”. And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed you could say to this sycamore tree, “Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea” and it would obey you. LK17:5. By his revelation, the invisible God from the fullness of his love addresses men as his friends and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company. The adequate response to this invitation is faith.
And by faith, man completely submits his intellect and will to God. In this way with his whole being man gives his assent to God, the revealer.
The sacred scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, and the obedience of faith. To obey in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is truth itself.
We see Abraham as the model of such obedience offered to us in the sacred scripture.
The letter of the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel’s ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham’s faith. By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went not knowing where he was to go. By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the Promised Land. By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. And by faith, Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice. Therefore, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, thus Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. The man Abraham was strong in faith; he became the father of all who believe. Blessed is she who believed, the Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomed the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that with God, nothing will be impossible and so given her assent. She gave her assent when she said, “Behold I am the hand-maid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word”. Also, Elizabeth greeted her: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord”. It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary Blessed. Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfilment of God’s word. The Church venerates her for this purest realisation of faith.
For Christians, believing in God cannot be sent be separated from believing in the One he sent, his beloved son, in whom the father is well pleased. God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples. “Believe in God, believe also in me”. We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is God himself, the word made fresh. When St Peter confessed that Jesus is Christ, the son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come from flesh and blood, but from my father who is in heaven. One cannot believe in Jesus Christian without sharing in his spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals to men who Jesus is for no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit who searches everything, even the depts of God. Therefore, faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. This faith, before it can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him, he must have the interior help of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth. To believe is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. When trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the spirit of God. Only God knows God completely for we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God. Even in human relations, it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises especially in marriage, to share a communion of life with one another.
If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to yield by faith the full submission of one’s intellect and will to God who reveals, and to share in an interior communion with him.
In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.
Thus, believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth of command of the will moved by God through grace.
Again, what moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason, we believe because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
The submission of faith, might nevertheless been accordance with reason, God will that external proofs of his revelation should be joined to internal helps of the holy Spirit.
Thus, the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the church’s growth and holiness and her fruitfulness and stability are the most certain signs of divine revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all, they are motive of credibility, which show that the assent of faith is by no means a blind impulse of the mind. Faith is certain and more certain than all human knowledge, because it’s founded on the very word of God who cannot lie.
To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience but they certainly that the divine light givens is great than that which the light of natural reason gives.
Faith seeks understanding, whereas it is intrinsic to faith and that a believer desires to know better the one in whom he has put his faith and to understand better what he has revealed, a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasing set afire by love. The grace of faith opens the eyes of your hearts to a lively understanding of the contents of revelation, that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the miseries of faith of their connection with each other and with Christ, the centre of the revealed misery. The same Holy Spirit constantly perfect faith by his gifts, so that revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.
In the words of St Augustine, “I believe in order to understand; and I understand the better to believe.”
Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light reason of on the human mind. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.
Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith; because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.
The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God inspire of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.
To be human, man’s response to God by faith must be free, and therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its nature a free act. God calls men to serve him in Spirit and in faith. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience but not coerced. This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.
Indeed, Christ invited people of faith and conversion, but never coerced them. For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His Kingdom grows by the love with which Christ lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself. To believe in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.
Since without faith it is impossible to please God and to obtain to the fellowship of his son, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life, but he who endures to the end. We should know that, faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can as well lose this priceless gift, as St Paul indicated to St. Timothy; “Wage the good war fare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons, have made shipwreck of their faith. “To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God, we must beg the Lord to increase our faith, it must be working through charity, abounding in hope and rooted in the faith of the church.
It is faith that makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God face to face as he is. So faith is already the beginning of eternal life.
When contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assure us we shall one day enjoy.
Now, however, we walk by faith, nor by sight, and we perceive God as a mirror, dimly and only in part. Even though enlightenment by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and sufferings, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.
It is then we must turn to the witness of faith, to Abraham, who in hope, believed against hope, to the Virgin Mary, who in her pilgrimage of faith, walked into the night of faith in sharing the darkness of her son’s suffering and death and so many others.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which cling so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.