12 June 2005

Faith: how do you know?

A friend of mine has always wanted to be a believer and experience that sense of calm assurance believers sometimes radiate... so today I asked: if you did believe, how would you feel? In other words, how would you know you'd begun to believe?

The response was, "i guess i'd not be ... bothered (logically? ...) by 'doubts' ... i'd 'know'."

For me: if I Knew, it wouldn't be faith. "Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see." Faith is about letting go of what's known for what's not... but, at the same time, faith is about hanging on and refusing to be pried off.

What is it for you? How do you know you believe?

As I type that, I think of my patron saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, and the unimaginable desolation she endured towards the end of her life. She was tormented by doubt. Both she and John of the Cross helped me to glimpse something of the truth of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13: "the greatest of these is love." Faith can seem evanescent. By itself, I wonder if faith can even exist. Because look what else Paul wrote: "There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance."

Is that where faith comes from? For me, that is the answer. To the degree I've been able to grasp the Scriptures, and to quiet myself enough in prayer to apprehend Jesus' presence, I have known what of him I could - and to know him is to love him.

To us Catholics, he is a Real Presence. He is here among us, in a mysterious way which intrigues or repels, but never allows indifference. If the Eucharist is seriously considered for even a moment, it compels a reaction on many levels. The instant it is understood as a nurturing act, a desire to be one with us to the point of perfusing our bodies with himself - an act of the most tender love - faith follows like a reflex. For me, it started with the love I felt for Him. It was much later that I faced my most serious challenge to faith, to accept that He loves me. "Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see." I hope that He loves me; I believe He does, though I have no clue why, given my KNOWLEDGE of how far I've strayed from what He wanted for me. I must take it on faith: God loves me. And there is the logic: I love Him; therefore, He must love me, even though I cannot see how that could happen.

We can do that for one another, by loving, openly and truly. There is that moment when the loved one finally gives up the attempt to make sense of it ("I am SO unlovable - what does s/he see in me??") - and accepts without understanding... takes it on faith.

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Update: In response, my friend offered this link on the Babelfish. I know a good-natured "phbbthth" when I read one. ;)

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