Blog # 327 Value of Faith
Faith has to do with TRUTH. There are two ways of discovering truth, one by experience, one by faith. Examples: I know by experience it is a sunny day. After reading it in the newspaper I know by faith President Obama and his wife are spending the week-end at Camp David.
To 'have' faith, or to experience faith is to believe. To believe is to take something as true on the word of another. We distinguish the content of our faith, or what we believe from the act of faith or the experience of consciously putting our faith to work as it were in the act of personally responding to what has been revealed to us as if it were our own experience.
The content of our experience cannot be the content of our faith, whereas the content of our faith could at a later time be the content of our experience. For example: Holding my left hand up before my wide-open healthy eyes I experience the truth that I have five fingers on my left hand. There is no room for faith in discovering this truth. In contrast, however, I could be told by a friend that St. Peter's Basilica is in Vatican City. If I have never been to Vatican City or St. Peter's Basilica I can believe this testimony. Later on I may have an opportunity of visiting Vatican City and experiencing the truth of what I have believed. From that point on I cannot believe it. To take something as true on the word of another is essential to the act of faith
We distinguish an act of faith from a profession or proclamation of faith. An act of faith is a conscious response to a relationship. A profession of faith is a statement. Our classic act of faith begins: "O, my God, I firmly believe that you are one God..." Our profession of Faith on Sundays at Mass begins: "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty..." We can illustrate the difference in a scenario in which a man tells a friend "I have a wonderful wife/" and another scenario in which a man tells his wife " You are a wonderful wife".
We can see the usefulness and value of faith in that it informs us of truth that we do not or could not otherwise attain. This is true of both human faith and divine faith. In the case of human faith we see this in the labels on cans and packages of food we buy, the DOW Jones averages given in our daily newspaper for those interested in daily stock reports, the report of yesterday's weather in Chicago where Grandma lives, etc. In the case of divine faith we see its use and value when applied to the question of the origin of the world, whether we will live beyond the grave, the Holy Trinity, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the authenticity of the Bible, the authority of the Church and the Holy Father, the identity and meaning of Sanctifying Grace, the efficacy of the Sacraments, etc.
As with a loaf of bread, its complete identity is not captured with a list of ingredients, flour, water, salt, raisins, etc., nor with the further mixing and baking of these ingredients, but goes on to the eating nourishment joy and love a family or friends experience in eating the bread together, so, the complete act of faith includes our response to the truth that faith reveals, the power for overcoming evil that it engenders within us, the joy of knowing we are in direct contact with God, called by Him to share the very holiness of Jesus and entitled to look forward with absolute trust to the experience of perfect happiness with Him in His Kingdom forever if we but follow the plan for us He reveals to us in faith.
In the light of our identification of faith in its relation to truth, the more important question is not "Are you saved?", but "What did Jesus teach?" Both questions are important but the second one is more fundamental than he first. All that God wishes us to know about Himself, creation, and ourselves is given in the answer to the question "What did Jesus teach?". "Are you saved?" stops short of what an act of faith in the complete message Jesus bought from Heaven entails.