Habakkuk 2:4
2 Timothy 1:7
Luke 17:5 & 6
“See, the rash have no integrity; but the just one who is righteous because of faith shall live.”
“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”
“Increase our faith.”
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…”
There are many definitions of faith that had been given. I see primarily two different types of faith that are being described for us in today’s Scriptures. The first is the faith that leads to salvation. It is the faith that is being described by Habakkuk, and by St. Paul, even though Paul did not use the word faith but described it as the opposite of a spirit of cowardice.
This faith that leads to salvation is the core gift that God gives to every one of us because of his love, and his desire that we spend eternity with him. This faith leads us to live a life of holiness. This faith is the strength that St. Paul was reminding Timothy of. This faith enables us to stand before the world, and especially before Satan, without cowardice. This faith is the power of the gospel: our love for God and one another, and our own self-control – which means discipline – that is the primary fruit of this faith that leads to salvation.
Without this gift of faith we cannot hope to do anything that is pleasing to God. Without the gift of salvation that comes from this faith, we cannot live as children of God, part of the royal family, princes and princesses of the Kingdom. But Paul is telling us that the Holy Spirit has been given to us with this gift of faith to give us the power and love and self-control to conquer… EVERYTHING that would keep us from receiving the inheritance that God has planned.
In reviewing the bulletin for this week, there was a quote in the reflection section that said this: “Many of us compartmentalize our Faith, we bring it out only when we attend Mass or when we attend a parish event. Being a good steward requires discipline and striving to put God first in everything, all the time. The next time you are at a neighborhood party, at work or out shopping, would your actions signal to others that you are a good and faithful servant of our Lord?”
I heard this challenge put in a much shorter way: if you were to be arrested tomorrow for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Would there be? Maybe this leads you to make the plea the apostles did: “increase our faith.” Maybe part of you is waiting for some event that can give you some assurances that all of this is real. Maybe you feel you need a miracle.
But that is not what this kind of faith is about. This gift of faith for salvation is a pure gift from God and cannot be shored up by miracles. Yet, Jesus says that if the apostles had faith the size of a mustard seed they would see miracles happen. So this reveals this second kind of faith. It is really a form of confident knowledge that something is going to happen, and happen by the hand of God. It is knowledge of a miracle. And sometimes the Lord lets us know that these kinds of things are about to happen. I have witnessed a number of them in my lifetime.
These events, these miracles, did not change the sense of this gift of faith for salvation that I know inside myself is true. While the gift of faith that leads to miracles can be an exciting gift, it has little to nothing to do with salvation. The little that it has to do with salvation is only in the sense that it happens because we are already moving with this gift of faith for salvation.
The gift of faith that leads to salvation was given to us when we were adopted by God through Baptism. I didn’t understand that as I was growing up. Not because my parents didn’t teach it, but because I did not understand. When I did come to understand salvation through Christ, and I came back and told my parents what I had “discovered”, they looked at each other, then looked at me and asked: “you mean you spent eighteen years of your life in this house and did not learn that?” I felt like crawling through the cracks of the floor.
Parents, let this be a lesson to you. You may be teaching your children correctly, and they still may not be responding to the faith as you would have them do. It may not be your fault.
It was not my parents fault that I did not see this gift of faith. They did everything they could to show that to me. It was the culture around me that kept me from understanding. Our society today is even worse. It is hard for people to receive this gift of faith that leads to salvation. And I think one of the reasons why is because there has been this huge confusion over the two types of faith.
Should we be looking for the faith that leads to miracles? Should we be asking God to show us, in advance, some evidence of what he is about to do? I believe we should. Not because he has to prove himself, either to us or to the world around us. But because there is such a lack of understanding of faith… ANY faith, that I am sorry to say we need to begin with this secondary gift of faith which is for miracles.
Now, you should be asking a very simple and important question: “how can I know God is speaking to me about an impending miracle?” Every one of us can learn the voice of God. In fact, I am sure everyone of you has heard the voice of God, even though you may not have recognized it.
While I do not have time to go into that fully now, let me describe it very simply. The voice of God comes with a peace inside of our hearts. A sense that the decisions we are about to make, in any given situation, are the best ones we can make, even if part of us does not want to make that kind of decision. This is the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking within our hearts. This is the same voice of the Holy Spirit that will give us the knowledge to act in the faith of miracles.
In reality, I could teach a whole course on trying to understand this voice of God for each one of us. It is at the same time both unique to each one of us and very much the same for each one of us.
So, each of us has been given the gift of faith for salvation. It was placed in us by the power of God when we were baptized. This opens us to the gift of the Holy Spirit, who in turn speaks to us in a way that we can understand. Learning to understand that voice enables us to have the gift of faith for miracles. This is the plea of the apostles: “increase our faith.”
Jesus, you told us we only need a small amount of this kind of faith for miracles in order to do great things for the sake of your kingdom. Our world today desperately needs your people to have this gift of faith that leads to miracles. It may be one of the only ways that we have to make active in the world the gift of faith that leads to salvation.
Teach us, Lord, as you talk your apostles. Help us to be people of faith. Help us to be people who live our baptisms with the faith that leads to salvation. Help us to be people who know your voice and can speak with the faith that leads to miracles, so that we can bring others to faith that leads to their salvation. And always keep us faithful to your call to holiness. Amen.