4th Sunday OT Cycle C
Last week, if we remember, Christ was quoting from the Prophet Isaiah. And today, we pick up right where we left off, Christ announces that the words of Isaiah are fulfilled in their hearing, but more specifically in Christ himself. After he tells them essentially that he is the messiah, the people in the synagogue rejoice because they’ve heard of what he’s done in Capernaum, and so they expect him to work the same miracles for them in Galilee, his hometown. But Christ has different plans. Instead of working miracles, he quotes more scripture to them. The scripture that he quotes here is from the Book of Kings, and in these passages, Christ is highlighting something rather disagreeable to the people in the synagogue: namely, that faith is of higher importance to God than any bloodline.
But what is this thing we call faith? Faith is often used in two distinct ways, the first, as a way to describe the revealed truths handed on down through the centuries from one generation of Christians to the next; so in other words, we call this first way the deposit of faith, it is that in which we believe. The second way that the word faith is used is how Christ exemplifies it today in the Gospel; and that’s the virtue of faith; a strong conviction or a strong belief, in all that Christ has revealed to us, and all that the Catholic Church teaches by the commission she has received from Him; and all of this aided by the grace of God.
It’s this second way of understanding the word faith that is of utmost importance to God, so let’s delve a little deeper into this aspect of faith.
Faith means here an assent of the mind to truth, based on trust. It is not primarily an emotion, it is something that requires both our mind and our will. Our mind because we must agree to the teachings of Christ and His Church, and our will because it requires effort on our part. Faith, then, is not passive; nor is it an intuition of our heart, but rather an acceptance of divine testimony. We do not arrive at belief in God without reasons, we do not believe without an intimate conviction that God has really spoken.
Faith is, before all else, an act of the intellect, and act of our mind, since it is a question of knowing the truth. And since this truth that we speak of is not self-evident, our assent to it cannot be made without our will, without some action on our part; namely, studying the reasons for believing, and when these reasons are convincing, the will bids us to give further assent to the truth of Jesus Christ, and the teachings of His Church. Now, faith is also a supernatural act, and because of this the grace of God must intervene to enlighten our minds and to aid our wills in believing.
In my own experience, I began taking the Catholic Church and her teachings more seriously because of an intellectual assent, which looking back was the beginning of faith. In HS and college, I knew intellectually that God must exist, and if that was the case, then he must be trying to communicate with us in some way; I couldn’t imagine a God that wasn’t personable. I saw in the OT that He was communicating with the ancient Israelites; and in the NT, I saw that God Himself entered into the world through his only son, Jesus Christ. And it was in the Catholic Church that I saw the true Church of Christ; the same historical church he founded 2000 years ago. But for much of college and the years following, it remained primarily an intellectual assent. It wasn’t until I entered into seminary that my faith moved from the intellect into more of a firm conviction that all that Christ and His Church taught was true. During a summer conference for seminarians in Nebraska, I was on an 8 day silent retreat where my faith was solidified more firmly, that it became an intimate conviction that God had really and truly spoken, that he had really and truly entered into the world.
But, let’s not move too far from the point of this scriptural reflection.
Christ was concerned with faith in the Gospel for one reason, because faith unites us to God, and makes us share in His thought and in His life. “By [faith], the light of God becomes our light; His wisdom our wisdom; His knowledge our knowledge; His Spirit our spirit; His life our life.” One may say, then, that faith is a source of light to the mind, a source of strength and comfort to the will, a source of merit to the entire soul.
If we are at times conscious of our weakness, faith reminds us that since God is Himself is our strength and our support, we have nothing to fear, even when the world and the devil join forces against us. And this is exactly what was happening in today’s Gospel. Christ announced that he was the messiah; but after rebuking the crowd for not having faith, they turned on him, seeking to kill him. But, because of his faith in the Father, he knew it was not his time. He knew that God would see him through; even through death on the Cross to his resurrection.
My brother and sisters, the same goes for us. God calls us to remain steadfast in our faith in his Son; whatever trials and tribulations we may have, God is with us; in this we can be certain; have faith.