Dear Catholic Exchange,
I know that Jesus was moved by the faith of the centurion. My question is where did the centurion get his great faith? Is faith a gift from God? If so, Jesus would not be so impressed by the centurion, as it would not be attributable to the Centurion, but rather to God. If it were something attributable to the centurion, then where and how did he obtain such faith? It would be good to know, so that others could follow his lead. We would all like to please Jesus with our faith. I just don't know how to obtain it. How did the centurion suppress skepticism? He had not personally witnessed miracles. He probably had heard stories from others about Jesus – why did he believe so strongly in these stories? Where and how did he get this faith?
Thank you for this excellent question, which goes to the very nature of faith.
We don't really know anything about the centurion beyond the brief narrative in the Bible, so we'd have to speculate as to the events leading up to his encounter with Jesus.
Speaking more generally, faith surely is a gift from God, ordinarily infused at Baptism. Faith does call forth a human response, but the act of faith presupposes that God is already drawing that person to Himself.
Faith is not an all or nothing proposition. Jesus refers to the disciples' "little" faith while also applauding others' "great" faith. At one point the apostles ask Our Lord to increase their faith.
That's why, technically speaking, faith is considered a theological virtue. Like other virtues, it can be cultivated and developed, and it can be neglected and allowed to wither. When we talk about increasing in faith, we are talking about the mysterious interplay of divine grace and human response. Some people may be given "more" faith than others, but then more would be expected of them, as we see in the parable of the talents.
Whatever the centurion's experience might have been, we can say that he made the most of the grace and insight he was given, and God blessed him for it.
This is largely a faithless age, and the pervasive skepticism and secularism of our culture can be spiritually suffocating. Therefore, the sins against faith catalogued in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 2088-89) are more prevalent than we might realize. In response, we must do all that we can to nurture the gift of faith and reject those things that are opposed to the faith.
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