Faith is an indefinable factor; though all have it in themselves, no one is able to state that ‘this is faith’. It is experienced more personally than known and learned. People belonging to any religious movement, do believe in God, and this belief they name, faith. To a believer, faith is that basic factor which saturates his devotion, his spirituality. This faith can be experienced but not expressed in words. It can be felt but not seen tangibly. No faith no devotion, no devotion no spirituality. Faith is that mantra for every believer in God, which murmured in consistency, would lead him to God. Every religious leader or spiritual leader’s effort is to experience this faith first for himself and then to share it to the world. When a spiritual person succeeds in communicating this faith to his followers, he has maneuvered the seed of faith sown by God and helps it to grow.
Lord, increase our faith! This is the prayer that the disciples of Jesus made to him when they found that they were not able to grasp what he was telling them about the kingdom of God. They were not into the practice of believing in God as taught by Jesus. Jesus taught and expressed that faith is the key to experience God and his graces. To many sick people who came to Jesus to be touched and cured, he healed them and said, ‘your faith has saved you!’ When one has faith, s/he is automatically a recipient of God’s grace, mercy and love. Faith can be seen as the prerequisite for God’s benevolence. Faith in God is the root of all good that happens in our lives. The stronger our faith, the stronger will be the bond between us and God. The weaker our faith, the milder will be the intensity of our relationship.
Dimensions of Faith
Faith has both divine and human dimensions. The divine dimension of faith is that it is a gift from above. The seeds of faith are sown in human beings by the Lord. When one is born in a family to religious and pious parents, the seeds of faith are sown in the person. This happens so because God deigns to give faith to those who are favoured in his sight. The faith of the great personalities in the history of salvation proves this fact. We have in the Old Testament leaders of Israelites who were not ready believers but by actions and signs, Yahweh proved to them himself and then they believed. Yahweh instilled in them a faith that could never be shaken in any situation. When the faith in a person is sown by the Lord it would grow and bear fruits at any cost. Let there be troubles and tribulations, let there be hindrances and adversities, s/he will overcome them and grow in faith.
The human side of faith is that it is nurtured by watering and maneuvering by human beings. The Lord sows the seeds of faith in us and we grow it by deeds of belief. When we pray daily and experience the Lord’s hands working in our lives, we begin to know that the Lord is faithful and then our faith grows steadily. When we fail to see and recognize the hand of God at work in our lives, the very same faith begins to deteriorate. When we frequent the church and sacraments, when we practice our religion seriously, the faith that the Lord imbued in us grows. When we forgo the matters regarding our religious tradition, faith begins to weaken. In other words, the Lord sows the seeds of faith in us and we nurture, grow it and make fruitful in our religious living.
Challenges to Faith
Faith is challenged today more than anything else in the world. These challenges that faith faces today are not only from the external factors but also from the internal factors. The world that has grown to be more a consumerist one, gives no much significance to faith, be that in any god or any deity. Forget about the commodities, human beings are considered merely as commodities; sold and bought. They are being showcased in the markets and price tags are clung so that customers can bid on them. Use them and throw them out when they are no more of any use. The culture today is neither religious nor spiritual rather it is commercial. People get connected to others for mere business deals. Relations have become business contracts more than a coming together of two individuals, two families and at large two societies. Faith is one virtue that has probably vanished from the face of the earth today, from the lives of people. It is a challenge before the church and the families to bring back this lost faith; to search and find out this strayed faith.
The faith today faces equally vibrant challenges from within the church. The church leaders, religious, lay leaders and the lay faithful, there is a great erosion of faith seen among all these groups of people. Family life is strangled to the extent that more relationships are broken than built. Prayer is something that helps the faithful to grow in faith. Prayer is the core of Christian living. This core is no more seen with any significance. This core has probably become the outer membrane of Christian life that has no more significance. When there is no prayer in families and in individual lives, relationships begin to have cracks on them. These cracks grow as time passes by and then in the absence of daily and personal prayers, this faith sinks instantly. When these challenges are understood, faced sensibly and answered well with the help of prayer and meditation, deterioration of faith can be suspended.
Faith personified in St. Thomas, the Apostle
St. Thomas, the apostle of Jesus who came to India to preach the good news to the people of this distant land, was giving an expression to the faith that he had in Jesus. He believed in Jesus as he heard, saw and touched the living Jesus. This belief instilled in him a faith that led him to dare to ask the Lord where was he going? Lo! We have a great teaching from the Lord as an answer to the faith of Thomas, ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6). This faith strengthened him to challenge the risen Lord to give him an apparition and the gospels narrate how the risen Lord deigned to grant this wish of Thomas (John 20:28). The faith of St. Thomas bloomed and bore fruits when thousands in the southern part of the country followed his footsteps and believed in Jesus Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour.
Living faith in the current scenario is indeed a difficult task. The life examples of great fathers in faith like, St. Thomas and others would propel us to strengthen our faith. Let their faith life help us to march forward in our simple and weak faith. Let our daily humble prayer to our master be, ‘Lord, increase my faith!’ May our faith bloom like theirs and bear fruits in these difficult situations of life and bring Christ to the world
Fr. Rajesh Puthussery