Blog # 283 The Year of Faith ( 2012 - 2013) -5
I can imagine many children at one time or another have been told by mothers and fathers to stay away from a hot stove because it will injure them. They could have discovered the same truth by the experience of touching the stove. Experience and faith are two ways we have of discovering truth.
Faith, similar to experience as a revealer of tuth,and as a companion to experience in revealing truth, is not an enemy but a friend. Without faith some significant and consequential truth could not be ours. In the light of this insight we appreciate the value of faith as a friend. I think some people have a fear or hesitation when it comes to accepting the gift of faith because it reveals truth that cannot be ours in the ordinary limited familiar way we have of possessing truth. They may have a feeling it represses or diminishes our freedom when in reality it is a friend of freedom and requires freedom to exist!
However, in spite of whatever it might be that keeps people away from an awareness of our need for faith and a desire for faith, it still remains that not every truth we can imagine and want to know as truth can be discovered by experience. Faith claims and proposes for our acceptance answers to important questions we have that cannot be answered by experience. For example: Is there a single Creator of all that exists? And if so, is that Creator personal, and can we be in a personal relationship with that Creator? Is that Creator benign and worthy of our unconditional trust and total love? Is there conscious life for human creatures beyond their physical death?
These questions, the answers we give to them , and the conclusions we draw from our answers in faith or in lack of faith are of significant importance to the whole human community throughout the world and throughout our human history. There are other questions that are of importance to each of us primarily as they affect us individually.
Our options in responding to such questions are similar to those that are ours with regard to the universal ones and a review of the process of arriving at faith in answer to one set of questions throws light on the process of arriving at faith in answer to the second set.
Here is how the process works with the individual questions. Who is my father and my mother? and Are these five boys living in our house my brothers? I am too young and therefore incompetent to know by experience the truth that comes in answer to these inportant questions. I am confident, however, that I know the truth in question on the testimony of Mary and John Hughes , my mother and father. I am the youngest in a family of six boys. That becomes true for me on the testimony of my mother and father, by faith.
Truth in general can be mine on the testimony of someone whom I take as a reliable witness, by faith. To know truth, whether it by faith or experience, is one thing. To respond to it is another. To know this man is my brother is one thing. To love him is another. So it is with faith. I may know all the answers requred to get an A grade in a religion course at school. To live the truth of those answers in my everyday life, to use it effectively in my quest for holiness, is what the world around me is waiting for and has a right to expect.
One of the 'reasons' I have for loving God as I do is one that I do not remember ever hearing from anyone else as having this reason among the reasons they harbor for loving God. It is very simple. Yet for me it is profound. It came to me when I contrasted experience with faith.
Experience 'captures' 'conquers' 'takes away' freedom. For example: I buy four oranges. That is my experience. I touch them with my fingers. Four. I see them with my eyes.Four. I count them them with my mind. Four. I can lie to you or someone else and contradict my experience by telling you I bought ten oranges but I cannot lie to myself. I have freedom in choosing my experiences but I am not free in determining their content.
In contrast, faith is 'built' on freedom and requires freedom to exist. When it comes to faith, what is proposed for me to believe can be true or not true as far as my limited experience or completence to know is concerned. The choice is mine to make in freedom and trust. In this I find the 'reason' I referred to for loving God more.
When it comes to an act of supernatural faith, there is a personal relationship with God the REVEALER , and that is another 'reason' I have for loving God as I do. GOD ,Infinite, All-Powerful, Unimaginably Good, Loveable Beyond Measure and all the rest of terms we grasp in an analogous way when we try to think and speak of God, HE, YAHWEH, ALLAH, FATHER WORD AND SPIRIT, knowing me personally from a 'time' beyond time and as modern science points out from a distance beyond fifty billion light years away yet HERE AND NOW, gives me, a mere simple limited creature the gift of faith, knowing Him in my unique human capacity and consequently the opportunity of responding to His eternal love with my own love through with and in Jesus the prime witness to Himself and to all that in freedom I believe.
I can imagine it could have been otherwise. We could have been created with other of the wonderful perfections we posses as highly developed creatures but motivated as lower animals are by instinct rather than in freedom. We would do what is right for us and never sin. We could not sin without freedom.
In this Year of Faith I pray that all Catholics will take the invitation of Pope Benedict seriously and make a special effort to grow in our awareness and understanding of the content of our faith and in our response to what be believe in new efforts to grow in holiness, for our own individual sake, for the sake of the Church and the world, and most importantly as a joyful witness to God's love for us and our love for God.