27th Sunday of OT Year C 2013:
Today in the Gospel we hear one of the most beautiful, most powerful, and most necessary prayers recorded in the whole gospel. The apostles look to Jesus and they simply say: Lord, increase my faith.
What is faith? Have you ever stopped to think what it is? We all know it is important. In fact, I would say that it is the most essential and basic quality necessary for Christian living. Without faith, there can be no Christian. With faith, anyone can be a Christian. Our first reading even says that the just one will live because of his faith. So faith leads to live; therefore, it is important for us to know what faith is, and what it is not.
First, faith is not hard work or determination. Faith is not something we give ourselves. Faith is not simply an idea. Faith is not just a decision we make. For most people, faith is a decision to believe something. Normally when we talk about faith, we mean that people have decided to believe in Jesus, that we acknowledge that his is the son of God. But, for too many people, faith remains something that is merely cerebral, faith stays in the mind, it doesn’t extend to the whole of the human person. This is a shallow vision of faith, and I daresay that it may not be sufficient when life gets tough. When we are facing difficulties the idea that Jesus is God may not be enough to get us through.
Faith is much more. From the theological tradition we know that faith is actually a virtue. In fact, it is one of the three theological virtues. Both of these words are important for us.
First, it is theological. This does not mean that it is a book, or something to study. Rather, this means that faith comes from God. When we say that it is a theological virtue, we mean that it is a gift that is infused within us by God. Faith is not something we give ourselves; faith is not the result of our hard work or determination; the very fact that we have faith is a gift that comes from God. And we know that he has given it to us, because it comes from the sacraments. Every one of us, on the day of our baptism, received the precious gift of faith.
Second, it is a virtue. Virtues are qualities or characteristics in a person that have grown and developed over time. No one is born instantaneously virtuous, we all have to grow in virtues. These are our habits or our dispositions. Faith is a virtue, it grows over time, it becomes more and more a part of who we are.
So, faith is a gift that comes from God, but it is a virtue that must grow over time. We received this gift on the day of our baptism, but we also ask Christ, as the apostles did, increase our faith. St. Paul has some beautiful words for Timothy, which seem to work well in our desire to grow in our faith: fan into flame the gift of God you received.
My friends, we have all received this precious gift of faith, but do we fan it to flame? Do we thank God every day for the gift of faith? Do we pray every day asking God to increase our faith? Do we make faithful use of the sacraments, especially Confession and Eucharist, so that God can deepen the gift of faith within us? Do we read Sacred Scripture, help the poor, have a daily life of prayer, seek ways to grow in goodness and love? Faith is a gift that comes from God, but we are called to fan it into a great flame that will guide and strengthen us no matter what we might face in life.
Today we gather, as we always do, to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Perhaps there is not greater place for us to whisper the prayer of the apostles. Right here at the Mass the Lord comes to us in his body and blood, right here we see Jesus, and we can ask him: Lord, increase my faith.