Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and all that He says because He (God) can neither deceive nor be deceived. In other words,"Faith is believing in God without seeing Him." For that reason, Jesus gently rebuked the "Doubting Thomas" after which the converted Apostle proclaimed, "My Lord and my God."
Faith can move mountains. Lord, I believe , but help my lack of belief. O you of little faith, why do you doubt! If you had the faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell the tree to be uprooted and thrown into the sea, if you only believe! These are all short verses gleaned from the Bible, that we have probably heard many times. Then why is it that our faith falters, wavers, and at times it simply caves in? The reason is simple! Faith must be understood, appreciated, practiced, cultivated and defended against the many enemies. Points of reflection on faith!
1. GIFT. Faith is a supernatural/theological virtue given gratuitously by God, in the moment of Baptism. Not to be earned, but received freely! In the very moment the waters of baptism are trickling off the head, the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are infused!
2. THANKSGIVING. The natural response to the reception of any gift is gratitude. "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever." St. Paul's affirms this saying that we should give thanks to God on all occasions... Jesus marvelled, after He healed the ten lepers, that only one returned to give thanks!
3. EXERCISE YOUR FAITH. Similar to any natural gift and talent, music, writing, public speaking, sports, lifting weights, faith must be exercised. If not faith becomes weak, sickly and even can be lost! How many of us know relatives and friends who once practiced their faith, but now do not even believe! Be thankful! It could be your or me!
4. CONCRETE WAYS TO EXERCISE/PRACTICE ONE'S FAITH. Making the sign of the cross slowly and believing, results in greater faith in the greatest mystery of faith: the most Holy Trinity. A genuflection is a corporal/body gesture done in front of the Blessed Sacrament, manifesting belief that Jesus is truly "Present" in the most Blessed Sacrament. A resounding "Amen" in prayer and upon receiving Holy Communion, once again is an act of faith. In short, be more cognizant of simple acts of faith done on a daily basis!
5. PRAYER. The holy Jesuit priest, Father John Hardon, once asserted that those who have lost their faith are those who have given up the practice of prayer. Stands to reason! Why? Prayer is essential an act of faith in which we converse with a God who we do not see, That precisely is faith, believing in He who we do not see!
6. STUDY/KNOWLEDGE. Logic proves that we cannot love what/who we do not see. Therefore, growth in faith demands a serious application to studying one's faith. A good starting point, might be to simply read a good catechism. One of the spiritual masterpieces in the last 25 years is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As in any good catechism, the CCC is divided into 4 basic pillars: Dogma (The Creed--- what we believe as catholics), Morality, a detailed explanation of the 10 commandments, Sacraments, the channels of grace through we are sanctified and finally Prayer, the key to salvation, the spiritual air to our spiritual lungs!
7. BEGGARS! Why not imitate the blind beggar Bartimeus! Beg the Lord every day for a deeper faith! "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you...(Mt 7:7) Insistent children beg and bug their parents to take them to amusement parks, movie theatres, and to buy them candy. Should not we, "Children of God" be even more insistent in begging for supernatural gifts, that will help us to heaven???
8. TRIALS. Faith must be put to the test, like Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac, and like the holy and just Job, who was sorely tried losing family members, animals, friends, even his own health, as he sat on the dung heap scraping himself with a potsherd. The afflicted man cried out, " Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I return to the earth. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. If we accept good things from the Lord, why no the bad?(Book of Job). Saint James goes all out, in the very start of his letter on the value of trials to fortify faith: "Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that testing of your faith produces perseverance, and let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4) God often sends us trials/earthquakes to shake us out of the stupor of our complacency!
9. SHARING! Ironically, when we give somebody something in the material realm, we become more impoverished. However, by sharing one's faith with another, the "Faith-sharer" loses nothing but gains all the more. Our faith is not meant to be hidden in a treasure-box, but rather shared fully, freely and joyfully! May Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta be our example!
10. MARY, THE WOMAN OF FAITH. At the prospect of the Passion and death of Jesus, the faith of the Apostles was shaken to the very foundation. On Palm Sunday He was proclaimed as King; then 5 days later He was crucified between two thieves! A very hard pill to swallow and digest! Mary, the woman of faith, suffered excruciating pains at the suffering and death of her Son. However, she never doubted! For that reason, St. Ignatius and the Catholic tradition, maintain that when Jesus rose from the dead, He first appeared to Mary His mother. Therefore, in our spiritual journey of faith, longing and yearning for our homeland, let us lift up our eyes to Mary, "The Star of the Sea" and entrust our small, weak, ship (our soul) to arrive safely at the port of salvation! "Ave Stella Maris!"