FAITH IS A GIFT
We can’t earn it. We can’t buy it. We can’t make ourselves grow in it. We can only do things that dispose us to receive the gift of Faith from God.
Just to make sure we know what we are talking about, perhaps we should start with this question:
WHAT IS FAITH?
“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. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #150).
“Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, 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” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #162).
The Catechism summarizes faith like this:
“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith ‘man freely commits his entire self to God.’ For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Living faith ‘work[s] through charity'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1814).
Faith is absolutely essential for salvation. How many times do we hear Jesus say in the gospels, “Go in peace, your faith has saved / healed you?”
Yes, faith is essential, but how do we get faith?
Faith is a gift freely given by God. Typically, we receive the gift of faith (the theological virtue of faith) in the sacrament of baptism.
But, as noted above, we can lose the gift of faith. In order to keep faith and grow in faith we need to 1) beg the Lord to increase of our faith and 2) exercise our faith. We’ll discuss how to do that in just a bit.
PORTA FIDEI: THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN
Today marks the beginning of what is being called The Year of Faith. Last October, Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter entitled Porta Fidei (or The Door of Faith). The reference is to Acts 14:27: “And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”
In his letter, Pope Benedict reminds us that “The ‘door of faith’ (Acts14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church.”
The Year of Faith is a time of grace and an opportunity to grow in faith. It will run through November 24, 2013.
Why The Year of Faith?
The Year of Faith marks 50 years since the opening of Vatican Council II. It also marks 20 years since the publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Year of Faith commemorates these two great events of the last century, but it also presents to us an opportunity for real conversion and growth in faith.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains The Year of Faith this way:
“The upcoming Year of Faith is a ‘summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world’ (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The ‘door of faith’ is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church” (USCCB website).
3 WAYS TO GROW IN FAITH THIS YEAR
When it comes to faith, knowledge is important. You can’t love what you don’t know. And reading is a wonderful way to grow in knowledge of God and the faith. Scripture is the living Word of God. It is unlike any other book in existence. It has the Holy Spirit as its author and it is able to move us and transform us in ways beyond our comprehension. Spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word every day this year is an excellent way to grow in faith.
Along the same lines, reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church every day is also an effective way to grow in faith. Scripture is the living Word of God, and the Catechism could be called the “living” Tradition of the Church. The Catechism is over 200o years of faith, hope, and love condensed down for easy consumption.
Both scripture and the Catechism can be daunting though. Both books are rather large, and many folks feel intimidated when approaching them. Luckily for us, Matthew Warner and the good folks over at Flocknote.com have come up with an easy-to-digest solution: You can get the entire Catechism emailed to you in small daily nibbles for the entire year. What an easy way to read the entire Catechism!
Here’s what Matt has to say on the sign-up page:
“For this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict has encouraged you to study and reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Well, here’s an easy way to do it. Simply enter your email address and – starting October 11, 2012 – you’ll start getting a little bit of the Catechism emailed to you every morning. Read that little bit every day and you’ll read the whole catechism in a year. Cool, right?”
I think it is most certainly cool. Don’t you?
All you have to do is click here and enter your email address and you’ll start receiving the daily easy-to-read nibbles of the Catechism in your inbox.
Prayer is communication with God. Prayer actually puts us in intimate communion with the Creator of all that is. That Creator also happens to be our Father. He loves us so much and he wants to spend time with us.
This year I am going to focus on begging the Lord to increase my faith. And I want to spend time in prayer being open to allowing him to do just that: increase my faith.
Daily Mass is a great way to enter into prayer each day. So is the daily rosary. As a matter fact, Pope Benedict has recently encouraged us to rediscover the rosary during the Year of Faith. I love the rosary, and I have been praying it daily (more or less) for years. During this Year of Faith, I want to pray the rosary with renewed fervor asking Our Lady to help me to grow in faith.
3. Love (Faith in action)
If I want to grow in faith, I know that reading and prayer are not enough. They are necessary, but they are not enough. My reading and prayer need to lead to love, which could be called “faith in action.”
There is a beautiful saying of Mother Teresa of Calcutta that highlights this truth:
“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.” – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
It is by loving and serving, first of all, my wife and children that I will actively exercise the faith I have already, and at the same time actively disposing myself to God to allow him to increase that faith. First my family, then my parish. Then whomever the Lord puts in my path.
The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you have plans to grow in faith for the Year of Faith? I would love to hear them! Tell me all about it in the comments below!**Image of door courtesy of Areopagus on Flickr.com.**