Faith is all about the deep-down essence of things, the core of being, the secret of reality.
For most of us, life is so busy that concepts such as essence and core and secret of reality can sound a bit esoteric. Perhaps they elicit from us little more than a dazed look as we attempt to decipher the words.
"What's really important," we might be thinking, "is how I'm going to feed my family without a job, or how I'm going to protect someone I love from an unfair court case, or whether or not I'm going to survive this round of chemo..." and the list can go on and on. What practical use is faith in situations such as these?
The last part of the document The Light of Faith elaborates on what I have come to call the "love structure" of faith. Faith is about belief, yes, but more specifically about the belief that the God of love is capable of "embracing all of human history and drawing it into the dynamic unity of the Godhead" (no. 45)…another set of big words….
By reciting the Creed—in which we narrate how God has created us, redeemed us, and saves us even today—we are changed. When we recite the Creed each Sunday at Mass we are declaring we are part of a history of love "which embraces us and expands our being, making it a part of a great fellowship" (no. 45). And this "expansion" happens not only because we believe, but because that is what God wants for us. Through our believing we allow God full authority in our lives, and we become a member of a great believing community--the Church.
God engages us on every level of our person and in our every relationship. Just look at the sacraments. God changes our last name, so to speak, at Baptism when he claims us as his own children, “assumes” responsibility for us, and gives us a message to spread. "Christ's work penetrates the depths of our being and transforms us radically, making us adopted children of God and sharers in the divine nature" (no. 42).
In the Eucharist, bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. He becomes present as the One who, in passing from this life to the Father through his great act of redemptive love, "draws us, body and soul, into the movement of all creation towards its fulfillment in God" (no. 44).
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us “to see all things through his eyes" (no. 46), and in the Decalogue we break through the prison of our selfish egos in order to enter into dialogue with God, "to be embraced by his mercy and then to bring that mercy to others" (no. 46).
Faith "helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope" (no. 51).
Faith allows a man and a woman to promise love forever because they "perceive a plan bigger than [their] own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains [them] and enables [them] to surrender [their] future entirely to the one [they] love" (no. 52).
Through faith we discover that those who suffer can be mediators of light. People of faith are "certainly not able to eliminate all their pain or to explain every evil. Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light" (no. 57).
I no longer have a child's faith, and neither do you. That means we ask adult questions about faith. Sometimes we wonder if it's all true. We try to make sense of it, to connect the dots to our own rational satisfaction. We look for certainty, we don’t want our hopes dashed….
Explaining it to ourselves isn’t possible, but it is possible to experience faith as love and thus to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Mystery of Love is real. Now every time I catch myself doing something I can't do, I sit back in awe of what God is doing. It can't be me. It must be HIM. The simple gaze that knows how to see him is captivated, bowled over, moved, attracted, and attaches itself in fear and trembling to each appearance of Christ in our lives. He touches us, His love penetrates us, within our being, in such a way that we have someone to identify with, someone in whom we recognize the totality of our humanity.
And thus, we leave the last word of our reflections to Saint Paul who describes what it is to live “with our breath taken away by a God who has bent over our littleness”:
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).