“Increase our faith,” the apostles say to Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel. Their request to Jesus becomes our prayer as we contemplate God’s word today. Once the disciples meet Jesus, their lives are not the same. For any and every encounter with Jesus is life-changing.
One cannot remain neutral in the face of God’s love for you. Life changes dramatically once we allow God to take his rightful place in our lives. Our longing for God either grows or diminishes. Faith either strengthens or weakens. There is no middle road in faith.
So what is Christian faith? What does it mean to be a person of faith today?
St. Paul paints a simple, yet profound, portrait of a person of faith in his Second Letter to Timothy. Faith is, first and foremost, a gift of God.
At baptism, we receive the extraordinary gift of new, divine life. We don’t merit this gift of faith and we don’t sustain our own growth in faith. Each day is an invitation to respond in faith to God’s loving initiative in my life that deepens with the interior force of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.
St. Paul highlights three aspects of faith — power, self-control and love. His insight is worth pondering today. Faith gives us power to transcend the limits and weaknesses that make up life.
How often do we feel powerless in the face of the world’s corruption and sin. Faith is the lens through which we recognize that God’s power has overcome the world. Once and for all, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus have overcome the darkness and appeal of sin and decay.
To grow in faith I must make Jesus’ life, death and resurrection the pattern of daily life so that I move from weakness to strength, from hurt to hope.
Self-control nourishes faith as it strengthens me to put God in control over all that burdens, distracts or weighs me down. Interior peace and true joy overflows from the self-discipline of daily perseverance in the spiritual life.
Faith deepens through self-control as Christ begins to live in me. Faith invites me into nothing less than my high calling to live as a son or daughter of God. For as Pope Benedict XVI once noted, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Love nourishes faith because it calls us out of ourselves to God and to neighbor. St. Paul reminded the first Christians that putting on love strengthens them to bear their share of hardship for the Gospel. What are your personal hardships that faith allows you to bear today?
Jesus invites his disciples, us, to grow in faith, even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed. God desires your friendship. So grow in faith as you pray, “speak to me, Lord.”