Increase our Faith

The request that the disciples made to Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel is: “Increase our Faith.”

The word faith used here is a translation of the word “pistis’ meaning trust. Jesus’ followers were asking that their trust in God be increased or, put another way, “may our trust in you grow deeper.”

When I was working in catechesis I would try to explore three aspects of the word “faith.” There is the intellectual aspect. When we talk about the Catholic faith we can point to the Creed that we say together every Sunday. If you were to ask someone what do Catholics believe, they could pick up a copy of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, all 778 pages, and say it is set out within the covers of this book. That is intellectual faith. It is important that we have an understanding of God and his love for us and a vocabulary that can express this.

Yet faith is also a relationship. Our faith is in the person of Jesus. This is what I might describe as “affective” faith. Faith is not just an intellectual assent to a body of truths. It is a relationship of love with the person of Jesus. We deepen this trust in Jesus through our life of prayer. St John Henry Newman
chose “Heart speaks unto Heart” as the motto to go on his coat of arms when he became a Cardinal in 1879. Inspired by these words, spoken by St. Francis de Sales, Newman calls us to hear God speaking to our hearts and to listen for our mission from God. This is affective faith. We are called to trust our loving God even when things seem bleak.

In the first reading this weekend, from the prophet Habakkuk, the Jewish people are experiencing extremely great hardship. The cry was “how long, O Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen.” But God, through the prophet, gives reassurance saying in the last sentence of the passage we read “the upright man will live by his faithfulness” and “the just man because of this faith, will live.”

The third aspect of faith is “active faith” or “faith in action.” What we believe intellectually and how deeply we love God and how we relate to his Son and our brother Jesus should be seen in the way we live. People see it in the choices we make and the lifestyle we lead. St James writes in his letter; “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.”

This weekend we will take our CAFOD envelopes in preparation for Harvest Fast Day next Friday. Fasting and giving the money we save to the poor is one small way of living active faith.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest