By: Nathan Deg

“And now these three remain: faith hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Cor 13:13)

Faith is one of those words – used all the time – that is a bit mysterious because it is used in so many ways with so many variant meanings.  We can talk about having faith in our family, our friends, our leaders.  We can talk about having faith in institutions, in the law, in nature.  We can talk about different religious faiths, the faith that other people show.  And we can talk about our faith in our own beliefs.  Not only that, we can talk about our own personal faith, and our faith journey.

So, when St. Paul says that faith is one of the three things that remain, what is he talking about, and why does it “remain”?  Why is faith so important to Catholics that we named it one of the ‘theological virtues’, i.e. a special gift from God? (see CCC 1814 -1816).

One of the definitions of the word ‘faith’ is ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something’.  When we have faith in someone or something we take on an attitude of trust.  And, even more then trust, a conviction that whatever it is that we have faith in will not let us down.  If I have faith in the law of gravity, I trust it and am confident it won’t disappoint me.  I trust that if I jump off a building, gravity will cause me to fall down.  And if I have faith in my friends, I likewise have confidence that they care for me and won’t let me down.

In the same way, when I have faith in God, I trust in Him and in His word.  I trust that when He says that He loves me, He means it.  I trust that when He says that I am reconciled to Him through Christ’s sacrifice, I truly am.  I trust Him when He says that I am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, and that He has “plans for [me]… plans for welfare and not for woe’ (Jer 29:11).  This is the faith that St. Paul talks about and this is the faith that lasts for all eternity.

That being said, it is often not so easy to obtain this faith.  After all, we’ve all had our faith in people destroyed before – maybe it’s a parent who left, a partner who cheated, a friend who deceived.  Maybe it’s something bigger than that. Someone in authority representing something larger than themselves.  A teacher, priest, police officer, etc.  who has hurt us. Or even an institution, like the law, that has failed us.  We live in a world full of pain, hurt, suffering and sin, and at some point our faith in others has been broken.  And when our faith in what we see is broken, how much harder is it to have faith in what we cannot see?

I think these are some of the reasons we talk about a faith journey.  Most people don’t suddenly develop this type of trust in God.  It’s a process with many twists and turns, heights and depths.  Yes, faith is indeed a gift, but we always have a choice to accept or reject God’s gifts.  Some people can completely accept it fully right away, but for others, for me, it’s a more gradual opening of our hearts. It’s a slow turn of our souls towards His love and His life.   It usually begins by encountering Him.  Maybe in our friends and family.  Maybe in the people we meet.  Maybe at Mass, or in Scripture, or in our prayers.  And as we encounter Him, we see His love.  We see that He wants what is best for us.  And we start to have faith.

I say start because, as St. James writes,  ‘…faith without works is dead’ (James 2:26).  As our faith in God grows, we cannot help ourselves from doing ‘good works’.  It’s impossible!  We cannot trust God without a relationship with God.  And we cannot have a relationship with God without a relationship with the rest of His children.  And that relationship will force us to do the good that God has planned for us.  It’s not that we have to feed the hungry or clothe the naked or visit the prisoner in order to earn God’s love.  It’s that when we are in love with Him we will be in love with humanity, and when we love someone we want to help them.

The crazy thing is this; even though we aren’t doing these works to earn God’s love (nor will they earn His love – He just loves us for being us), and we aren’t doing them to grow closer to God, they will indeed feed our faith.  More than that, they will unite our faith with hope and love.  And those three things will deepen our relationship with God and draw us closer to that abundant live that He promised us.

Catholics love to talk about the gift of faith, because faith is a gift.  It is a precious gift from God.  It’s also our response to God’s gifts (see CCC 26).  When we begin to recognise all the things God does for us, we can start to trust Him.  That trust, that faith, in turn makes everything else easier, because we have a rock on which we can stand.  We have a foundation about which we build all life.  When our faith in people is damaged, when we are hurt and suffering, we can stand firm about on two great truths; there is a God and He loves us.

Again, this gift is not something that happens overnight.  It is a long process so let’s not be discouraged when we doubt God and don’t always trust Him.  We all have good days and bad days.  The key thing is to try to keep moving forward.  For every step we take, God will take ten.  The fact is, He is always with us. I need to constantly remind myself of this, to not rush things, and not despair when it’s dark and I am having trouble seeing God.  I need to have faith that I will eventually have Faith!

Catholicism is not about rules or rituals.  It’s about a relationship with a person, with Jesus Christ, with the Creator of the Universe.  The whole of creation points to God, and every message from Him, the whole of Scripture in fact is one story shouting: ‘Trust me, I love you!’  My prayer is that both you and I are able to grow enough in our faith to answer Him and say ‘Yes, I do trust you and I love you too’.

About Author: Nathan DegVersion 2

I am an astrophysicist working as a post-doctoral fellow at UCT. I obtained my Ph.D. in 2014, and am currently studying barred spiral galaxies, stellar streams, and the Milky Way. I enjoy way to many video games, books, movies, and tv shows and have a deep and abiding love for real (ice) hockey.