One of the many consoling aspects of our faith is the conviction that God takes the initiative in searching us out and saving us, that even before we began to think about and desire God, he was already looking for us!
We see this in the parable of the Good Shepherd who seeks out the one lost sheep with great compassion, and in the father of the prodigal son who must have been anxiously scanning the horizon every day for a sighting of his lost son. As Jesus says at the end of his encounter with Zacchaeus, “The Son of Man came to seek out and save what was lost.”
Faith, then, is our human response to an experience of the Lord that stretches our understanding of life, our awareness of God and our knowledge of Jesus’ love. Often, when I ask people how they have experienced God, they struggle to respond, perhaps thinking an authentic encounter with the divine has to be spectacular or at least extraordinary.
Psychologists speak of “liminal” experiences, transcendent moments that lead us into deeper insight and draw us toward that infinite horizon of our own existence. Some examples would be the birth of a child, falling in love, a long illness, the death of someone deeply loved, watching a sunset, forgiving a long held grudge or a conversation with a homeless stranger.Yet, most often God speaks to us through the mundane and seemingly ordinary people, events and experiences, calling out to us gently but firmly, breathing his love and grace over us, even when we are not aware.
Because we can recount such experiences in our own lives, can we not assert that every person has encountered God, the one who draws us beyond the narrow limits of our self-definition into the vast playing field of his love and grace?
The Scriptures are filled with dozens of people, just like ourselves, who were just “minding their own business,” but suddenly had an encounter with the Lord and then responded in a faith which led to action.
Abram heard the voice of the Lord, calling him to leave home and become the father of a great nation at a remarkably old age; Moses encountered the burning bush and heard the Lord’s call to become the fearless liberator of the enslaved Israelites, even though he stuttered; Mary had a vision of Gabriel who invited her to become the Mother of God as a virgin and Peter heard the radical call of Jesus to leave everything and become a “fisher of men.” St. Paul reminds us that faith comes through hearing, or we could say, as an obedient response to a personal and direct contact with God himself.
Christian faith is a personal and loving relationship with Jesus Christ as the center of our existence, which expresses itself in all the dimensions of our human personality.
Faith is spiritual, as in prayer and the sacraments, we open our souls to a loving communion with the Lord, living from the absolute core of our being. Faith is intellectual, as we learn ever more profoundly the teachings of Christ and his church, able to articulate the reason, truth, beauty and goodness of Catholicism.
Faith has an emotional dimension, as we feel in our hearts the extraordinary love of God and express our devotion in deep prayer and charitable deeds. Faith moves the will to desire what God wants for us, which is eternal life in him. As Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian said, “Holiness is willing the one thing,” namely the will of God.
When Christ is truly the magnetizing center of life, every aspect of our human being finds a new integration and a harmony in relationship to the Lord. Our time, money, sexuality, virtues, talents, relationships, work, leisure, thoughts and desires all express and deepen the wondrous flowering of the Kingdom of God within us.
“By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, ‘the obedience of faith’” Catechism of the Catholic Church #143.
What parts of my life and aspects of my personality are not yet fully integrated into my stance of faith? Where are the discrepancies between what I say I believe and how I actually live my life?
As we move ever deeper into the discipline of discipleship, we ask the Lord to stretch our faith, to hear how he is calling us and to respond in dynamic action as our Scriptural heroes did so generously and completely. God is passionately seeking us out; are we looking just as excitedly for him?