Tuesday, November 19, 2013

All So Much More

We come to see the difference, then, which faith makes for us. Those who believe are transformed by the love to which they have opened their hearts in faith. By their openness to this offer of primordial love, their lives are enlarged and expanded. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). "May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:17). The self-awareness of the believer now expands because of the presence of another; it now lives in this other and thus, in love, life takes on a whole new breadth. Here we see the Holy Spirit at work. The Christian can see with the eyes of Jesus and share in his mind, his filial disposition, because he or she shares in his love, which is the Spirit. In the love of Jesus, we receive in a certain way his vision. Without being conformed to him in love, without the presence of the Spirit, it is impossible to confess him as Lord (cf. 1 Cor 12:3).
Lumen Fidei 21

Reflection – Yesterday was a perfect storm of life, work, and various responsibilities that took me far away from blogging. Sorry to have missed ‘deadline’ on that.

Well, it’s the last week of the Year of Faith (remember that?), and so I thought I would stick this whole week with the encyclical on faith co-authored by Popes Benedict and Francis. Faith is always a timely topic—it’s not as if this week is the last chance to talk about it or something—but of course the Church has asked us to make it a special focus right now, so let’s do that, OK?

This paragraph puts faith in a very sharp relief indeed. Faith, the assent of our mind to revealed truth, is not simply some psychological exercise where I go from ‘not believing that some guy named Jesus is God and died and rose from the dead and so I can go to heaven’ to ‘believing all that stuff.’

Faith, while it is a matter of the intellect, in fact places our intellect in its right order in disposing it to enter a whole way of life and being that is characterized by love, communion, encounter with God, and compassion for the world. In other words, faith as ‘assent of intellect’ properly understood places our heads in our hearts, places our minds at the service of hope and love, of mercy, of beauty, of communion.
Faith, in other words, opens a door—the door of faith!—but what comes through that door is in fact the Holy Spirit, the transforming presence and power of God. This is so far removed from the shallow caricatures of faith that are often thrown up against believers. Faith as having ‘an imaginary friend’, faith as turning off one’s intellect for a blind assertion of some wholly irrational world view, faith as mystic nonsense, faith as capitulation to some human authority (‘letting the Pope do your thinking for you!’), faith as (simply) being very, very stupid.

All of that is how non-believers often look upon faith, and indeed we who have faith can slide down that road, too. Or faith can become for us a mere going through the motions, doing certain actions and ascribing to certain truths out of force of habit or fear of hell or simple inertia. There are certainly dry times in our lives when habit is our best friend and tides us over some pretty blank and barren moments, but faith is meant to be more than just routine and rote obedience.

It’s all about the relationship, eh? It’s all about God coming to us, and knocking at the door of our hearts, and faith opening that door, so that love can come in. So that love can begin to transform us into love, so that Christ can transform us into Christ, so that the mind, heart, eyes, and will of Christ become (miracle of miracles of miracles) our mind, heart, eyes, and will.

It is all so much more than it seemed when we first started to believe. There may indeed be an initial surrender, an initial sense of shutting the mind off or accepting the authority of the Church blindly… but out of that springs this whole interior world, this whole interior life in which the mind is energized, the inner person is strengthened, the whole of our humanity sharpens to an fine point of focus and energy, when a love and a Spirit that is not ours begins to stir within, when all that Christ is begins to move and shape and expand within us, yeast in the dough, the seed in the earth, and what a strange plant begins to burst out of the hard and barren soil of our humanity, what a strange life begins to live within us. Faith does all this, if we accede to its movements and the truths it teaches us.

It is all so much more than we thought it was, at first.

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