Monthly Archives: August 2013

Faith and the Search for God

#35  The Letter to the Hebrews tells us of the “just ones” who sought God even before He made the covenant with Abraham.  One of these was Enoch, who “had pleased God.”  We can’t believe God exists apart from faith.  In Hebrews 11:5, “whoever would approach God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  God is not impossible to find.  He rewards those who seek Him by allowing Himself to be found.  (I love this statement from Lumen Fidei.  I believe that one of the prayers that He always answers if we pray sincerely is “Please show me that you exist.”)  “God is light and He can be found also by those who seek Him with a sincere heart.”

In the New Testament, the Magi are seekers.  The star is a sign of God’s patience with our human eyes.  He knows that we must grow accustomed to His luminous light, which is a bright as the primordial fire that it is.  As we approach God, we are not engulfed by the immensity of His fire, but rather we begin to shine all the more brightly.  “There is no human experience, no journey of man to God, which cannot be taken up, illumined and purified by this light (fire.)”

Faith is a way, so if non-believers are sincerely open to love and search for whatever light they can, they, even without knowing it, are on the path to faith.  They intuit that the presence of God would make life’s grandeur and beauty all the more beautiful.  “Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by His help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.” (I read this quote twice because it gives me hope.)

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The Dialogue Between Faith and Reason

32.  Blessed John Paul II in Fides et Ratio showed us how faith and reason strengthen each other.  When we discover the light of Christ’s love, we realize that every time we have loved, that instance contained a ray of Christ’s light.  This leads us to see how all love is meant to share in the self-gift of Jesus.  “In this circular movement, the light of faith illumines all our human relationships, which can then be lived in union with the gentle love of Christ.”

33.  St. Augustine studies Greek philosophy and accepted its insistence that being “in the light” demanded sight but not hearing.  Augustine came to appreciate that God is light and this was the beginning of his turning away from his sinfulness.  But the personal God of the bible who is able to speak to us appeared to Augustine as he read the 13th chapter of Romans.  However, St. Augustine did not refect light and sight, but integrated hearing with sight.  He spoke of “the word which shines forth within.”   “Yet, our longing for the vision of the whole, and not merely of fragments of history, remains and will be fulfilled in the end, when, as St. Augustine says, we will see and we will love.  Not because we will be able to possess all the light, which will always be inexhaustible, but because we will enter wholly into that light.”

34.  (This is well worth reading the whole thing for yourself.)  However to points from this paragraph:  1.  “Faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others.  One who believes may not be presumptuous, on the contrary, truth leads to humility. . . Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.”   2.  “By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of  creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.”

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Faith as Hearing and Sight

29.  St. Paul used the formula fides ex auditu (faith comes from hearing.)  He acknowledges that faith, linked to a word, is always personal.  Personal knowledge of the truth leads to “the obedience of faith.”  The Greeks, at that time, linked knowledge to sight and this would seem to be antithetical to the biblical understanding of faith-knowledge as coming from hearing the word.  However, the Old Testament combined both kinds of knowledge.  When we heard God’s word, we longed to see His Face!  It seems that God’s overall plan for salvation by faith includes both hearing and sight.

30.  (This paragraph is so rich that I really suggest that you read the whole thing from Lumen Fidei for yourself.)  Here are some quotes to wet your appetite for doing so:  “Faith’s hearing emerges as a form of knowing proper to love:  it is a personal hearing, one which recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd.”  “But faith is also tied to sight.  Seeing the signs which Jesus worked leads at times to faith, as in the case of the Jews who, following the raising of Lazarus, ‘having seen what He did, believed in Him.'”  “If you believe, you will see the Glory of God.”  (Jn 11:40)

Christ is the Word made flesh Whose glory we have seen.  Our encounter with Christ is the perfect blending of faith by hearing and by sight.  Truth is disclosed by our contemplation of our Risen Lord’s life and our awareness of His Real presence in our lives.

31.  Jesus shared our humanity and brought to fruition a faith that comes from love for us.  St. John in his First Letter also speaks of faith as touch.  “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”  By taking flesh and dwelling among us, Jesus touched us.  Not just during His life on earth but also through His life given to us in the Sacraments.  So, in faith, like the woman with the hemorrhage, we can touch Him and be cured.  As St. Augustine said, “To touch Him with our hearts: that is what it means to believe.”

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Knowledge of the truth and love

26.  St. Paul says that “One believes with the heart.” (Rom 10:10)  This means that we will be transformed by faith to the extent that we become open to love: the immense love of God.  God’s love enables us to see reality (Truth) with new eyes.

27.  In contemporary culture love is seen as an experience of “fleeting emotions.”  However true love has to require truth or it can never endure over time; turning us away from being self-centered and towards another.  “Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.” Love and truth are inseparable.

28.  Love is the source of knowledge and the biblical understanding of faith.  Faith-knowledge is born of God’s love in covenant with His people.  As its history blossomed, Israel came to see that this faith-knowledge (divine truth) extended to the entire history of the whole created world.

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Chapter Two: Unless You Believe, You Will Not Understand.

I have been high-liting important passages in each paragraph and then paraphrasing them to present the “gist” of each paragraph.  Now, Lumen Fidei is getting so filled with hi-lites that to reduce each paragraph to a few salient points is getting harder.  I will probably be quoting more from the encyclical in some places and suggesting that you read certain paragraphs for yourself in other.  I really can do no better than Papa Francis’ * own words.

Faith and Truth

“Unless you believe, you will no understand. (cf Is 7:9)”

23.  The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible translated in Alexandria is “If you will not believe, you shall not be established.”  Terrified by the might of his enemies, King Ahaz wants to form an alliance with the great Assyrian empire because of the security that he believes that the empire can offer him.  “The prophet tells him instead to trust completely in the solid and steadfast rock which is the God of Israel.  Because God is trustworthy, it is reasonable to have faith in Him, to stand fast on His word.”  The prophet challenges the king and us.  He wants us to see God’s faithfulness; that God’s plan is best if we but have faith.  We must understand with St. Augustine the Truth of God.   He is a God that we can rely in order to be “established” in that Truth and to understand how trustworthy God is.

24.  Isaiah leads us to one conclusion:  faith without Truth can not save!  If faith is just a beautiful story with which we can deceive ourselves or a lofty sentiment that is incapable of sustaining us through life, the we, like King Ahaz, would be foolish to stake our lives or security on such a feeling or story.

25.  Relativism:  The denial of universal Truth and ultimately the denial of God’s existence.  “Today, more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age.”  At this point, the encyclical speaks beautifully of contemporary culture and its consideration of truth.  I suggest that you read all of paragraph 25 for yourself.  It is a priceless description of our culture.  Truth (with a capital “T”) is the origin of all.  In the light of Truth, we can glimp0se the goal and meaning of mankind’s common path.  It can “succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness.”

*Some of Lumen Fidei was written by our beloved Benedict XVI.

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The Ecclesial Form of Faith

22.  Once the Christian is conformed to Christ in love, his life becomes an ecclesial existence; live in and with the Church.  We see ourselves in the mirror that is Christ and just as Christ gathers all believers to Himself, so we come to see ourselves as in an important relationship with all other believers.  As St. Paul tells the Romans, all who believe in Christ make up one body.  We are one, but we don’t lose our individuality.  We become the best of ourselves when we serve others.  Faith is necessarily ecclesial.  Faith that is separate from the Church cannot find its equilibrium; it cannot sustain itself.  Faith is no private matter.  As St. Paul puts it:  “one believes with the heart. . .and confesses with the lips.”  Faith must be proclaimed.  For “how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without a preacher?”   When faith operates in the Body of Christ (the Church), we become part of the Church’s life throughout history until the end of time.  “For those who have been transfored in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes.


So, now we are finished with Chapter One.  Monday, we will begin Chapter Two.  Hope you are enjoying this.  I am!

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