By  Matthew Halbach, Director, St. Joseph Educational Center

This probing question came up in a catechism study group to which I belong, and it got my creative juices flowing. It quickly became for me such a source for meditation that I thought I should share it–along with my musings, no matter how uninspiring or incoherent they may be–with the many unseen travelers out on the information superhighway, knowing that each bears his (or her) own cross.
May we bear such crosses with faith. And may faith, itself, never appear to us as a cross to bear.
First off, the question posed demands that we come to an agreement about what we mean by “faith.” The Church teaches that faith is a “virtue,” a “gift” or “grace.” For myself, I find the last definition to be the most appropriate. Faith is a gift, one that God constantly offers to us. I know for certain that I don’t have a monopoly on faith, nor do I have any actual control over the “amount” or “quality” of faith I have at any given moment. Faith is truly a gift. What I do have control over is how open I am to receiving faith. Ultimately, to be open to faith, which is not the same as saying “I believe in God,” is a decision rooted in the will. To be open to receiving faith is to be willing to look for God’s presence in our lives. Yet, sometimes, I am either unaware of the gift of faith God offers me or I outright reject it.
Why would I be unaware of or reject the gift of faith God is offering to me?
While there are many possible answers to this question (which is a very personal question I might add, meaning that the number of possible answers could total in the billions!) the answer I have arrived is conditioned by how I have come to understand God who is the object of my faith: I understand God to be a mystery. And I do not intend to use the word “mystery,” here, as in the literary genre which aims at offering readers the answer to the questions: Who did it? and Why?
Readers of mystery crave the answer to these questions. And, consequently, many of those who understand God as mystery in this sense tend to look at God as a puzzle to be solved, and believe the motives of God to be something deducible. “It’s mere elementary my dear, Watson.” But God is not a “mystery” in this sense, though we are tempted to think otherwise.
All of us are confounded by the “plot” that we read in the story that is our own lives– lives which can be riddled with fortune and misfortune, and pocked with moments of ecstasy and agony, monotony and meaninglessness and the ever-present, unknown future, which can either appear promising or ominous to us depending on how we have interpreted our “stories” up to the present. It is the mystery of life that compels us to believe that the mystery of God (his nature, his plan) is something knowable to us.
But if, in fact, God and his plan for each of us is something we can simply reason or deduce, then where does the gift of faith come into play? Why would we need it? As the hymn reminds us, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” While the “better angels of our nature” tell us that God is, indeed, good, loving and all-powerful, when life throws us a curve ball or gives us a little “chin music”–a little baseball euphemism– these truths do not seem so certain to us. And, so, we begin the quest for answers to the mystery of God and we are, ultimately, left dissatisfied, confounded.
But I mean to use the word “mystery” to describe the personal nature God. God is not a riddle to be answered, a puzzle to solve. God is a person (three in fact) with whom we are to relate. God is someone we are called to “know” in the deepest, biblical sense of that word.There are no mere spectators or “readers” when it comes to understanding the mystery of God. There are only actors, as the mystery of God is, itself, the opportunity for lifelong, eternal fellowship, to which faith is the invitation.
God is a mystery to be entered into.
Having said all of this, it seems to me that those who appear to have more faith than others are those who have discovered the key to unlocking the mystery of God. And the key is to understand that God is personal, that faith is the doorway to a relationship with God and, so, to living the mystery of their own life within the larger mystery of God. Such folks, I would imagine, are more content with not having all the answers. What they desire instead is meaningfulness, and they have found their lives to be pregnant with meaning when they consider themselves and their loved ones in relation to God. In addition, such “key holders” are also okay with having little or no control over the ultimate course of their lives. They understand full well that at the center of the mystery of God stands a loving Christ, wounded yet whole, forsaken yet triumphant, dead yet risen. Such folks are, indeed, more apt to find faith, and more of it, in times of pain, sadness, loss and confusion.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” says the Lord (Mt 11:28). Today, if you feel you are carrying a heavy cross or life just seems cruel or unfair, take a moment to consider the God who is near you, suffering with you, and who longs to give you the gift of faith which will help you begin to find meaning, hope, courage and peace in your life.
May you find, keep, and grow in faith in every place, every season, every circumstance.
God bless you!

[Thanks to Matt for permission to run his essay. Read more of his reflections on faith at www.sjeciowa.org]

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  1. JoeC on November 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Imagine being the parents of a baby boy. The first three years are nice. He loves his crib. He sleeps through the night finally. Live is good.
    Then dad brings in a black cube that has different colored buttons on each side. The baby is told he can do whatever he wants with the cube as long as he doesn’t touch the red button. Any other colored button is ok to push. No other explanations are given. Remember that this is a baby that has virtually no life experiences.
    Of course, either directly or indirectly, at some point the red button is pushed. The result is the box erupts in flames, permanently burning the baby, and resulting in the family house burning down. Now they are all homeless, having used all their options staying with friends, etc. They now live out of their mini-van. During all the hardship, the baby grows up being blamed for the fire so not only does he have to live with these unforeseen circumstances, he is reminded daily that it is all his fault, but his daddy reminds him daily that he stil loves him in spite of it all the trouble caused.
    So, would we say he is a good dad who wanted to teach his kid a lesson or perhaps he is not such a good dad, especially if we find out the dad knew all along what the consequences would be.

  2. Bob Zimmerman on November 8, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I have just one question… Where can I get one of those awesome cubes?! I love pushing buttons!!!

  3. mapanaoernest on November 12, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Faith is not a gift of God,but it is a duty or an act of a believer to attain it,if God give this as a gift what delightfulness God’s get,when you have a belief that God exist then that belief will teach you to have a faith,why? this is how God knows if He exist in your heart,The Lord Jesus Christ has never delegated His authority to anyone,whether he may be the pope,pastor,or any majority of the congregation.He is ” head over all things to the church (ephesians 1:22) the only absolute final authority.if you have Faith and you sin,you ask God to forgive you,so your faith works,and without faith it is impossible to please God.

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