The Scripture readings for this past weekend concerned faith. In the first reading the prophet Habakkuk says that the just person because he/she has faith will live. Jesus tells his disciples that if they had faith they could cause a mulberry tree to be transplated into the sea. What is faith?
If I were to ask a group of folks to define "faith" I would probably get as many different definitions as there would be folks in the group. So what is it and how do we arrive at it?
Faith comes to us through revelation - revelation received from others (such as our parents who planted the seeds of faith in most of us; faith formation teachers who continued to bring us the message of Jesus, etc.). We also receive the revelation of nature: the beautiful colors that span our landscapes at this autumnal season, the beauty of a sunrise or sunset or the grandeur of the ocean. Some of our own life experiences reveal to us that there is a purpose in life and someone who is greater than all of life. For those of us who are Christians, the ultimate "revealer" is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And what does this revelation tell us?
It speaks to us of a God who loves us unconditionally, without strings or preconditions. I recently heard the statement: God can never love you more than God does at this moment. We might ask some questions about that: if I pray more, if I attend Mass more often, if I am a better friend and neighbor - won't God love me more? The answer of course is no; we cannot earn or merit God's love - it is a free and unbounded gift from a most generous God.
Faith is our acceptance of that love; it is saying "yes" to God. And what happens when we accept it and say that "yes?" We want to offer thanks to God and because we are not isolated individuals we best can do that in worship in a community of faith. This acceptance will also lead to "good work." If we accept God's love for us we want to do those things which are "good" - which benefit others.
One author said that we experience faith in our everyday lives; it takes faith, for example, to get on an elevator or ride in a plane; it takes faith to fill a prescription or put money in a bank. But as he (Warren Wiersbe) states: our faith is only as good as its object. If the object of our faith is other people, we get what other people can give us. If the object is money, we get what money can give. If the object is ourselves, we get what we can give. But if the object of our faith is God, we get what God can give and that is a boundless, unconditional, infinite love for each of us. All we must do is to say "yes."