Let God Purify Our Faith This Lent

I remember the Act of Faith that we memorized in our Catechism class. It began by professing faith in the Triune God and the Incarnation of the Word, and then it ended with this statement:

“I believe these truths and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.”

This last statement indicates that the motive for our faith must be constantly clarified and purified i.e., why we believe what we believe. We do not believe because we understand God’s words completely or because of what we can get by believing. We do not believe because it is easy, convenient, favorable to our taste or fashionable for our times. We believe and act on God’s words because the God who gratuitously reveals truth to us “can neither deceive nor be deceived.” This is the true and matured motive for Christian faith.   

Let us reflect on the faith of Abraham, our father in faith. Imagine his shock and dilemma when God asked him to take his only son, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice on Mount Moriah. He surely did not understand then why God was giving this command. Isaac was not just his only son, the son that he had longed for all those years. Isaac was also the son God promised him. To lose his only son would be to lose everything he had and all that God had promised him.

He understood why God commanded him to do such a thing only after he had obeyed God’s word in faith to the very end. God fully revealed His plan at the very last moment when Abraham was about to slaughter his only son, “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies.”(Gen 22:17)

Imagine now the great gladness that filled the heart of Abraham knowing that God was going to bless him by making him the father of numerous victorious descendants. All these because he obeyed God’s command in faith, step by step to the very end, despite his heavy heart.

Abraham’s story shows us that the more that we obey God in faith, the more we actually begin to understand God’s ways in our lives and allow Him to make us truly glad. This gladness is ours because we see that God will never deceive us in His words or promises to us.

Jesus took the three disciples “and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.”(Mk 9:2) They obviously did not know why Jesus was taking them away from the other disciples. They did not know then why they were being led up a high mountain. But they followed Him with a weak and frightened faith, step by step, all the way to the top of the mountain where Jesus “was transfigured before them.”

They understood why only at the summit of the mountain. In the light of the transfigured Christ, they realized that Jesus had brought them to this mountaintop to show them a glimpse of the glory that He had hidden under His human nature. He brought them there to allow them hear the Father’s voice directly. He brought them there to strengthen them to face the scandal of the cross in Jerusalem. Lastly, He brought them there to instill in them a gladness in being in His company that would overcome any fear of suffering, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.”

Everything that we do in the Lenten season—praying, fasting, giving alms—is to deepen and renew the faith of our baptism. Ours cannot just be a faith that only begs things from God. Our faith must mature to the point of obedience to God’s words to us till the very end, no matter the consequences, costs, results, sacrifices or inconveniences involved. We can reach this maturity in faith only when we allow God to purify our motive for believing in His word. 

The psalmist said, “I believed, even when I said, ‘I am deeply afflicted.’ Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones.’” What is precious to God is surely not our natural death. The thing that delights God is our faithfulness to Him and His words always, even in the face of death. Our afflictions in life cannot quench our faith in God and His words to us if only our faith is being constantly purified.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we may sometimes feel like we do not understand what God is doing in our lives, our families, our Church and world today. Things seem to be getting out of control and we seem to be losing everything—peace, health, hope, success, strength, relationships, joy, hope, and even our souls. In the face of many of the things that we cannot understand, we repeatedly ask, “Why? Why God?” We fail to realize that these are the moments when God invites us to clarify our motive for believing in Him and then allow Him to purify these motives by His “truth and grace.”(Jn 1:17)

Let our response be rooted in the faith in what God has done for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are confident because, “He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?”(Rom 8:32) God will not give us all that we want; but in Christ Jesus, God will surely give us all that we need to obey His words in faith, step by step, to the very end and enter His kingdom of eternal gladness.

At His transfiguration, the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” This means that Jesus is constantly speaking to us “words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68) St. Paul also reminds us that “He is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us.”(Rom 8:34) He is praying for us to have the matured faith of His Mother, Mary, who was blessed because she “heard the word of God and acted on it.”(Lk 11:28) He also wants us to share in her God-given gladness too, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”(Lk 1:49)

Our Eucharist is an encounter with the Transfigured Christ, who alone can purify the motive for our faith in Him. He is delighted by our faith in Him in the Eucharist; but He will never allow us to have a poorly motivated faith in Him and His words. We may never understand His mysterious plans in our lives. But we know that He who revealed to the disciples a glimpse of His eternal glory will surely provide for us the pure faith that we need to walk in fidelity to His truths until the very end.

It is only by obeying Him in this pure faith, step by step, till the very end in the life to come, that we will understand His ways completely and enjoy that eternal gladness expressed by these words, “Lord, it is indeed good that we are here!!!”  

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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