We read from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians this week.
accepted faith in Jesus Christ, the Galatians were starting to believe
that they had to follow the Jewish law to be saved. Paul had followed
the law zealously, but he knew he had only received a saving
relationship with God through faith. The Galatians hadn’t followed the
law at all; they also had received that relationship through faith. So
Paul knew, from every angle, that salvation was a gift to be received
through faith. He thought the Galatians should have known it, too. This
prompted his famous outburst: “O stupid Galatians … did you receive the
Spirit from works of the law or from faith?”
that faith is the key to salvation should prompt us to ask about the
nature of faith, so we can be sure to cultivate it. The Catechism of the
Catholic Church does a superb job laying out the central
characteristics of faith in paragraphs 142-184.
Faith is a gift from God, but that doesn’t mean we can take it for
granted. Like our life, we can kill our faith directly by rejecting it;
like our health, we can lose our faith slowly by neglect.
example, if we always read the newspaper but never read the Gospels, the
weeds of worldly perspectives will grow and choke our faith. If we make
time for our favorite TV shows every day but don’t find any time to
pray, we will slowly become unable to hear the still, small voice of
So, faith isn’t a one-time deal. Just because we professed
the faith once upon a time doesn’t mean it’s still alive and well in us.
It needs constant watering and weeding, or it can die of neglect.
If we nourish it, faith offers us a taste of the joys of heaven. Pope
Emeritus Benedict XVI explained that faith isn’t just a subjective
feeling of assurance, but it gives us an objective reality: “Faith draws
the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not
yet.’ The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present
is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future
spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those
of the future” (Spe Salvi, 7). We might say faith is similar to
pregnancy in that sense: It’s not just that you will have a child, you
already have a child!
Just like that child in the womb though,
faith is supposed to grow. It would be sad if we never grew physically
and emotionally beyond our grade-school years. The same is true of our
faith. When we’re young, others arrange for us to meet Jesus and
understand Him more deeply. As we grow, we’re called to take more
initiative. Many fall off because they always expect someone else to
provide the program.
So, faith needs to grow. We can and should be
childlike in faith. But we can’t and shouldn’t be childish in expecting
others to feed our faith. We need to decide for ourselves how to grow
our relationship with Christ.
Let’s nourish and exercise our faith
so that St. Paul never needs to say to us: “O stupid Americans … did
you neglect the faith you were given?”