The Gift of Faith
As the Christmas season approaches, our thoughts turn to Christ and his birth. But even the most pious among us will also think of gifts we will give and receive. What am I going to buy for my nephew, my sister, my friend? The Christmas season offers ample traditions both religious and secular, and in this year, so impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those traditions are on hold or have changed significantly. Nevertheless, many will still exchange gifts. One gift that has been on my mind is the gift of faith.
We so often think of faith as a matter of belief, and that is certainly an aspect of what faith means, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church can help us understand faith more completely.
In paragraph 153, the catechism tells us that “When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come ‘from flesh and blood,’ but from ‘my Father who is in heaven.’ Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. ‘Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.’”
If faith is a gift of God, we may naturally ask “how do I receive this gift?” The Church tells us in the catechism that “Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe.” (CCC, 1253). At our baptism, we receive the gift of faith. At that point, this faith is not complete, mature, or whole, but a beginning. This faith is a supernatural grace that orients our heart toward belief in God.
The gift of faith prepares our heart for the human action of faith (Cf. CCC, 154-155). Faith must be lived and kindled to allow us to grow closer to God. Just as a relationship between a husband and wife can wither if there is no conversation between them, or no shared life, this is also true of our relationship with God. We need to spend time talking to God and reading his word in the Holy Scriptures. Without that time to hear from and speak to God, we will struggle to keep our gift of faith burning bright and may end up hiding that flame of faith under a bushel basket (Cf. Matt: 5:13-16).
In this time of pandemic, when so many still are unable to frequent the sacraments due to their own high risk or the risk of a family member, it can be hard to nurture that gift of faith. Moreover, in this turbulent political season, it can be easy to let politics take the place in our heart meant for Christ alone, disregarding that gift of faith. In light of the pressures our own faith may be facing this winter, I encourage every Catholic in the diocese to not only remember the great gift of Christ’s incarnation, but also remember that gift of faith we received in baptism—the same baptism that unites us with Christ’s body here on earth today. This December, take the time to nurture your own faith through prayer, study, charity, and self-sacrifice. Connect with fellow Catholics at Mass or through a phone call, continuing to seek out the community that has sustained your faith.
I hope and pray that this Christmas season, while so very different, may be a season of great blessing for all of you.
God Bless and Merry Christmas.