The word of the Lord remains for ever. This is the word that has been proclaimed to you.
A reflection from Father Tudgay for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.
“Just have faith”, someone may say to you, particularly in a moment of difficulty or crisis. Faith in what, or in whom? In most cases, we presume that the folks who are giving us this advice are referring to placing our faith in God. In a moment of difficulty or crisis, however, there is often a temptation to turn inward and focus on how we, ourselves can fix something or solve a difficult problem. And we know that sometimes we just run short.
Enter the role of real faith! Simply put, faith, as a theological virtue, is an intellectual assent to what is revealed by God. Human intelligence has the beautiful capacity to apprehend aspects of the created world around us and assemble those observations into what we know as science. This speaks to the beauty and power of the human imagination. The human imagination, which is an integral part of being created in the image and likeness of God, is the source of art, culture, music, medicine, math, scientific discoveries… unlocking the mystery of the universe is the result of observing the created world around us and understanding the inner logic of creation.
Faith, as a virtue, is no less intellectual than the hard sciences. Faith is a reality that is developed by apprehending what God reveals to us about himself through his Word, which requires the assent of the human intellect and will. Article 155 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church captures an insight by Saint Thomas Aquinas by stating, “In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” Essentially, all of the power of human imagination and creativity are invited to contemplate the mystery of God alive and present in us and in the Church. The more we open ourselves up to the reality of God’s presence among us, the act of faith within us deepens and we become more sensitized to the presence of God around us.
So, is faith merely an intellectual exercise? Yes and no. As we seek out and find God’s presence in the world and in our lives and as our faith is deepened, we realize that this intellectual exercise gives way to a relationship which, because this relationship is with a perfect and loving God, gives way to trust. Put simply, faith gives way to trust in someone who loves us unconditionally and, even through difficult and challenging circumstances, reveals his plan for us and to us so that our whole existence makes sense. In this relationship, even the harder or nastier moments of life reveal some element of God’s plan for us, which always leads us to clarity and peace. The deeper our experience of faith, the more our existence – challenges and all – make sense. Real faith, not just wishful thinking about better circumstances, is an opportunity to find God’s presence in the good and the bad and to discover that, in all things, God’s plan for us leads us to greater peace and freedom.
Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.