What Do We Mean By Faith?

Last night was our monthly Taize prayer services at St. Hubert’s Church. As always, our service included several readings and a reflection, interspersed with Taize chants. I gave the reflection last nigth and my theme was faith.

The person giving the reflection selects the four readings, one of which is typically a Gospel passage. For that, I chose the passage in Matthew where Jesus invites Peter to come to him by walking on the water.

The thrust of my talk was faith as trust in God. Faith, not as giving intellectual assent to a set of propositions about Jesus, but about giving our hearts in total trust to God and in the revelation of Godself through Jesus.

You can find a podcast of my reflection here. (The podcast runs for 11:04.)

Since I refer to the other three readings as well as the Gospel in my talk, here they are:

Brother David Steindl Rast:

I Believe in God. This initial statement contains, as in a seed, the whole of the Creed. It means that I dedicate myself in complete trust to a power greater than myself. This dedication is a commitment of my whole being – mind and body – from my heart, my innermost being, my “deep heart’s core: to use an expression coined by William Butler Yeats.

Faith is far more than the sum total of beliefs. Beliefs are merely pointers; faith is profound trust in the actuality to which beliefs point. The Creed mentions beliefs, but it is a statement of faith, not of beliefs. There are many beliefs, but there I ultimately only one faith: faith in God. Beliefs are only so many windows toward the one actuality with which faith is concerned: God.

Jeffrey Small:

Faith then is not belief in a certain doctrine about Jesus, but a trust in using him as an example of what it looks like to live a God-centered life. Through the stories in the Gospels (whether or not the details are historical are irrelevant), we can understand the nature of God’s presence within the world and what a God-centered life looks like: a life of humility, compassion, love without boundaries, a life which experiences suffering and doubt, but a life that ultimately participates in the eternal power of God that transcends death.

We’ve all heard the expression “Try it on faith.” This doesn’t mean, “Believe me” but rather “Trust me, and experience it for yourself.” Faith is about testing, questioning, and doubting. In science these qualities lead to greater truths, why shouldn’t the same apply to religion? For me, religion is about embracing the unknown and the difficult — a journey of exploration that never really gets there because ultimately I am finite. Faith is about being comfortable with my doubts because doubt is part of my search for truth. Faith is not a closing of my eyes and mind to the real world, to science, to modern knowledge, or to experience, but it is the opposite: an opening up and a new way of seeing.

Joan Chittister:

Jesus does not come to appease God. Jesus comes to teach us how to live a life that makes us worthy of the God who made us. Jesus comes to show us what we ourselves can be, must be. Jesus comes so that we can come to be everything we were created to be, whenever our lives, wherever our efforts, whatever our circumstances: shining glory or abject degradation….

We can walk through the Golgothas of our own lives as he did, with the same understanding, the same steady faith, the same awareness of God’s providence for us as we go, or we can stumble our way through, bitter and alienated from the very moments that, like his, can bring us to our glory.