Friday, June 9, 2017

Faith as Gift

I've been thinking recently about the nature of faith-- that is, the experienced and subjective nature of faith, in my own case.

Let me first of all say that I always flinch from the claim to have faith at all. Perhaps it is a common experience, but I always feel like a fake Christian and a fake Catholic. Very often, I feel like a complete imposter at Mass. The fear that it is not Jesus Christ I worship at all, but an idol, is a persistent one.

But put that aside. Now and again, I find myself pondering on the ultimate foundation of my faith, if faith it be. I've read a great deal of apologetics, and reflected upon the Christian claim with all the resources of my reason and intuition, such as they are. I believe there are many compelling and converging rational arguments for Christian belief.

But...ultimately, there remains a leap. My faith in Jesus Christ is not simply a deductive process, or an inductive process, or some combination of the two. There is something irreducible about it.

The sight of a cross...the very name "Jesus Christ"....the phrases of the gospel writers....the sight of the Eucharist....the lives of the saints....the "flavour" of Christianity....all these things speak to the depths of my soul, instill a conviction within it which transcends all rational apologetics.

I realize the danger of admitting this.  Childhood associations...visual poetry....nostalgia...sentimentality...the power of many psychological explanations might be put forward to explain such a conviction?

And yet, the idea that my faith (such as it is) would simply be a result of my own poor reasoning powers is much more unappealing to me.

As readers will know, I've been reading a lot about the saints recently. One of the things that strikes me most strongly about the saints is how frequently the names "Jesus" and "Mary" were on their lips. Very often, they were the last words they said. It's the personal nature of their faith that strikes me. I feel that our faith (or my faith, at least) is always sliding away from the personal, or the interpersonal, towards the abstract and philosophical and cultural and sociological-- which are much less challenging. Reading the lives of the saints directs me back towards Jesus, the incarnate Word who had a face, a name, a mother, and so forth. Faith that rests upon a person seems almost silly, embarrassing, naive-- but ultimately, this is the faith that sustains us.

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