FAITH AS A LOVING AND TRUSTING RESPONSE TO THE PRIOR LOVE OF GOD FOR US
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 6:4-13; MT 17:14-20 ]
Today we touch on a very crucial issue in our life. This is the question of faith. Without faith, we cannot really live. Without faith, there is no Christianity. Without faith, we become ineffective and powerless ministers of Christ. This was precisely what happened to the disciples. They could not cure the lunatic because they did not have the proper faith to bring about such a healing. Consequently, it is important that we must consider the real nature of faith that is required of us so that we can live beyond ourselves.
What then is faith? The most basic level of faith is what I term as human faith. This faith is an act of the will by affirming faith in oneself. It is a kind of auto-suggestion or positive thinking. And so if I want to pass my driving test, I must believe that I can drive; and if I want to be a great preacher, I imagine myself to be one. This kind of faith is not totally useless. It certainly helps to build up self-confidence and self-esteem. However such a kind of faith in oneself is still deficient because we have to keep on conditioning ourselves. Sometimes, we can even deceive ourselves and make ourselves to be what we are not. This is true in all kinds of hypnosis where people act out their fantasies.
Then there is another kind of faith. This faith is slightly higher than the first and is the normal faith that most of us have. This faith is an act of the will to trust in God, especially in His power and providence. So this faith, unlike the first, is not a trust in oneself but in God. However, it is similar to the first in that the act of faith is made on the initiative of man. This kind of faith is a kind of blind faith. It is a leap in the dark. However for such a faith, it requires super-human courage and perhaps naivety. So when we are asked to pray for people, we pray with as much faith as we can in God’s power and providence. But for most of us, at the back of our mind, we have a lurking doubt that God might not hear our prayers. And so in the mind, we keep fighting within ourselves as to whether God will hear us. But with such a fickle mind, we cannot but mediate the lack of confidence to those people that we pray for. Thus, our prayers lack effectiveness and power since neither we nor those people whom we are interceding for are assured of God’s love and mercy. This precisely was the way the disciples prayed for the lunatic and no results were seen.
So we can see that the first two levels of faith are deficient. What then is the kind of faith that Jesus is asking of us? It is a faith in the power and love of God, but in response to God who has already loved us previously and still loves us. In other words, unlike the former kind of faith, it is not simply a blind trust in God’s love, nor the use our will to make that act of faith. Rather it is a faith that springs from the prior love of God in our lives. Indeed, this is the kind of faith of the Israelites which we read in the first reading.
Now when Moses told the people, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength”, he was not asking them to do the impossible. For the command to love God with one’s whole being is rooted in the love which God has shown them already. The adjunction to love God is founded on the fact that this God has demonstrated His unconditional love and mercy for them by leading them out of the slavery of the Egyptians, through the desert into the Promised Land where milk and honey flowed. So if they came to profess their trust in Yahweh, it was because He had manifested His love and providence in their history. Hence, it is not a blind faith. Certainly, it is still faith. But it is a faith that is based on a reasonable trust, a trust that has been forged through the initiative of God who loved them and protected them from all their enemies. On this basis, Moses could tell the people that, since God had shown Himself as such, it was only right that they served Him alone.
The implication for us therefore is that unless we have experienced God’s prior love for us, we cannot have a faith that is well founded on our personal experience and conviction. It will only be an intellectual faith or a blind faith, not something that we can personally testify to. If that were the case, of course our faith, which is a deficient faith, will lead us to pray without confidence and unsure of God’s response to our prayer. However, if we have experienced God’s love and security before, then we can pray in faith that God will hear us today, since He has already heard us before. Our faith therefore is rooted in God’s past actions in our lives. For this reason, our faith is neither blind nor simply an act of the will but really a response to a loving God in our lives. This is the only kind of faith that will move mountains and all obstacles in our lives.
Indeed, if Jesus had reprimanded His disciples by saying “How much longer must I be with you?” He was challenging the disciples to see that God was manifesting His love through Him. Jesus was asking the disciples to open their eyes to see God’s love, mercy and power present in His whole being, words and deeds. Unless they opened their eyes to God’s love in Him, they would not be able to experience God’s love and therefore lack trust in God’s willingness to hear their prayers. But when they did, which was what happened after the death and resurrection of Jesus and particularly in the case of St Peter and St Paul, they then became faith-filled people. It was such a kind of faith that empowered them to become effective ministers of Christ and in winning people over to the faith and build up their love for God and trust in Him.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.