We receive the virtue of faith at Baptism, and that faith empowers us to believe in the unseen God. It is the virtue of faith that propels us toward the Father and into the heart of the Son, through the Holy Spirit. We hold no power in and of ourselves. It is only through faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that we are able to achieve anything at all. Faith, then, is the essence of Christianity.
The measure of our faith, in part, depends on our life experiences. I was raised Catholic and God was ingrained in me from the very beginning. I had knowledge of God and who He was in me and in all people because of my religion. Not everyone is blessed with knowledge of God from childhood, and sometimes not ever. That does not mean that God isn’t present in them, only that they are unaware of that presence. But God can ignite the light of faith within and bring the mind to pursue Him at any moment, whether He is known or not. Knowing God and knowing of God are two different things. To know God intimately is to have a relationship with Him, to hope in Him, and to love Him.
I Am My Own God
About a month ago, I went to a party that consisted mainly of young people. It was an interesting experience; so many different personalities and belief systems in one place. I found myself embroiled in a stressful situation when I joined a conversation with a few people who were writers. One woman in particular was very curious as to the type of writing I did. I told her I was Catholic and wrote on spiritual topics. She said she was Catholic too, and began a series of very specific questions about my writings. I felt immediately attacked. It was soon obvious that she was not Catholic at all, but participated in different New Age practices. She talked a lot about “energy,” as most New Agers do. She said she could “see and feel things around people” and believed those “gifts were with her from childhood.” The fact that she used the word “with” when referring to these gifts was strange, because a gift is something that is given. If this gift wasn’t given to her, then where did it come from? I can feel things around people sometimes too, we all can. It is called intuition and it is a gift from God. By this time, she was denying the existence of God and stating a halfhearted belief in a “higher power,” which translates to agnosticism or atheism. When I asked if she believed Jesus had walked the earth she said she did, but that he was just a good man and maybe a prophet. Sadly, this woman placed the faith that God had given her in herself and in the abilities she believed she had. She basically made herself her own God.
Humility of Heart
Not all hope was lost though. I did find someone there that night with not only faith, but humility of heart. He didn’t know it, but I did. He was a good person. Not one who practices any religion or knows God on an intimate level, but it was clear that he had been touched by the grace of God. He asked me if I had ever prayed for him. I said of course I had and he replied, “I am counting on you to get me into heaven.” The truth is I can’t pray him into heaven. Yes, my prayers matter, but he has to achieve heaven on his own merits. The fact that he asked me for prayers shows that he acknowledges God on some level. Recognizing that there is a heaven, and stating his desire to go there, reflects the faith that lives in him. His humility was evident in his desire not only for prayer, but to one day be with God in heaven. He has created an opening for the Lord, and little by little Jesus will secretly work in the depths of his soul, filling him with His love and calling him closer and closer to Himself.
Prayer and the Grace of God
It is my perception that many young people today struggle with the reality of the existence of God. And if they do believe in Him, they either don’t know how to relate to Him or they don’t have the desire to know Him. Both of the people I encountered that night need healing on a different level. One asked for prayers, and through that his faith and hope in God became visible. It only takes a tiny ember to start a fire. The other person did not ask for prayers, but was steadfast in her convictions. Her heart was hardened by pride and love of self.
A few years back I went to a retreat at my parish. We split off into groups and the leader of our group read a passage from Scripture. It was the story of the men who lowered the paralyzed man through the roof so Jesus could heal him (Luke 5:17-26). When the leader was finished reading the story he asked us, “If you could be one person in this Scripture who would it be?” Without hesitation I said I would be the guy busting through the roof. He laughed at my candor, but really, isn’t that what we do when we pray for others? We continually beg God to reveal Himself to those we pray for, so their hearts may be filled with His incredible love. We don’t know when or how long it will take, that is up to God, but the very act of praying for others increases our faith and allows the grace of God to enter their souls. What could be more important than that?