“Be on guard, stand firm for the faith, be courageous, be strong. your every act should be done with love.” (I Cor. 16:13-14)
What is the virtue of faith? It is a theological virtue that unites us with God in whom we believe, in who He is, and in what He says through the Word of God, through the Magisterium and the person of Peter, who is the Pope. A shorter definition, indeed easier to memorize is: “Faith is believing in God without seeing Him.” Faith, together with hope and charity, are infused within our souls in the moment of Baptism. However, like a tiny seed planted in the ground it must be cultivated, otherwise it can wither and die.
A very graphic Biblical verse, worthy of deep meditation—or better yet, contemplation—is Saint Peter walking on the water, sinking, and then being lifted up by the hand of Jesus. (Mt 14:22-33) One of the principal reasons why Peter actually sank in the waves was that he lifted his eyes from the eyes of Jesus to look at the waves. This can be applied to all of us! When we fix our gaze into the loving eyes of Jesus then our faith, as well as our hope, remain firmly rooted, anchored! However, once the worldly values lure us in the wrong direction and actually seduce us, then we—like Simon Peter—start to falter in our faith and eventually sink in the waves of our own sinfulness. Therefore, may we make a firm commitment and fight to be strong in the faith by striving to have Jesus always present to us in all times and places. As the Greek poet expressed it, quoted by Saint Paul: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
What are the major obstacles to faith in the modern world?
Related to the topic of faith, we should then ask and respond to this question, what are the major obstacles to faith in the modern world in which we live? There are many, but we would like to highlight a few:
1. Lack Of Formation In The Faith. Often many have a very weak faith because their parents never made a concerted effort to teach and live the faith for their children. Parents must be the first teachers of the faith; they promised this on the day of their child’s Baptism. They should teach their children both by word and example.
2. Lack Of Permanent Formation. As in the life of any professional, a permanent process of formation is demanded. Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Writers, Priests—all must be constantly updating and upgrading their practice and profession; if not, they could lose their job. Likewise, as followers of Christ our formation process should be perpetual, up until the day the Lord calls us. We can never get to know and love God enough!
3. Distractions and Worldliness. Today there are many worldly distractions that can pull us off the straight and narrow path that leads to salvation. Jesus says the path that leads to perdition is wide and spacious and many choose that path; whereas the path that leads to salvation is narrow and there are few who find it and follow it.
4. Priorities. Also, without a serious cultivation of our faith, other things become our priority over God. However, our God is a jealous God who will take second place to no person, place or thing.
5. Sin. Finally, one of the major obstacles towards growing in our faith would be SIN. If we give in to sin and allow sin to be our master, then our faith can diminish, wither, dry up and perish! Then we actually become slaves to our sinful desires and passions.
Now let us move in the opposite direction and respond to how we can bolster our faith and be the means by which others will come back to the faith, grow in their faith, and become apostles like us bringing others back to the faith.
1. Prayer. Every time we pray we are growing in our faith. Actually prayer is an act of faith because we are praying to a God whom we do not see. Servant of God, Father John Hardon, SJ made this observation with respect to faith. He noticed that most of those who had the faith and lost it, did so due to little prayer or the total abandoning of prayer. Therefore, let us make a strong decision and concerted effort to strive to grow in prayer every day.
2. Solid Scriptural Reading. Saints have been converted by reading—as in the case of Saint Ignatius of Loyola who read the lives of the saints after his injury in the battle of Pamplona. Ignatius exclaimed: “If Francis can do it, so can I; if Dominic can do it, then so can I.” Why not decide to bolster your faith on a daily basis by applying yourselves to good spiritual reading. You might even start to read the lives of the saints; they indeed were the heroes of God, and men and women of extraordinary faith!
3. Accept Trials Like Simon Peter. When God sends you some trial or tribulation then why not accept it and call out like Simon Peter who was sinking in the waves: Lord, save me! Jesus did save him, and at the same time gently rebuked him with the words: “O man of little faith!” God actually sends you trials to strengthen your faith, like Job in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament.
4. Eucharist: The Bread of Life. It must be said that the frequent, worthy, as well as fervent reception of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, is by far one of the most powerful means to grow in our faith. “As the deer yearns for the running waters, so my soul yearns for you my God.” (Psalm 42:1) May the words of the Psalmist motivate us to grow in faith by growing in our faith and hunger for the Eucharist!
5. Share Your Faith with Others. It is interesting to note that when we share material things, we end up with greater poverty. Not so with spiritual gifts and treasures. The contrary is so! The more we give and share our faith with others, the more we enrich our own faith. Therefore, be open to opportunities that God places in your path—persons that you can share your faith with. Many do not have faith and may never have faith for this simple reason: no one has been ready and willing to share their faith with them. As the Prophet Isaiah expresses it: “Blessed are the feet that bring the good news” (Is 52:7).
The last words of Jesus before He ascended into heaven were: “Go out to all nations and teach all that I have taught you; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Behold, I will be with you always until the end of the world” (Mt 28:20). Indeed, to be a follower of Christ is to be a missionary, always looking for times, places and circumstances to share the Good News of salvation. May Our Lady who said YES to God in the Annunciation and then went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth so as to bring the Good News to her, be our inspiration to know our faith, love our faith, grow in our faith, and be zealous to share our faith with the whole world!