WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE, THROUGH GOD’S GIFT OF FAITH
Behold, therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, IF thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt BE CUT OFF” (Rm 11:22)
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“In the physical order we probably would rate our health as being our most precious possession. If we had to make such a decision, we would choose health in preference to all the gold and jewels in the world.
FAITH – A GIFT FROM GOD TO BE CHERISHED
In the spiritual order our most precious possession surely is our religious faith. If we did not believe in God, His love for us and in His promise of eternal happiness, this life would be largely meaningless – a few years of consciousness between oblivion and oblivion.
FAITH, LIKE HEALTH, CAN BE WEAKENED
Many of us give far more attention to the cultivation of our bodily well-being than we do to the cultivation of our faith. Yet faith, like health, can be weakened and can be lost.
The catechism defines faith as ‘the virtue by which we firmly believe all the truths which God has revealed, on the word of God revealing them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.’
FAITH, A GIFT FROM GOD WHO CAN NEITHER DECEIVE NOR BE DECEIVED
If we analyse our own act of faith, we can see that there really are three steps involved in it. First of all we believe that God exists, a personal, infinitely wise and all-loving God. This is THE big step in the act of faith. All else depends on it.
Next, we believe that God has made Himself known to mankind. Through the events and the prophets of the Old Testament, and most especially in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, God has revealed to us certain truths about Himself and about our relationship with Him.
Finally, believing that God exists and that God has spoken, we give our FIRM ASSENT to what God has said. We believe His Word.
SUPERNATURAL FAITH VERSUS AN ACT OF THE INTELLECT
It is clear that we could not take these steps unaided. A man honestly in search of the truth could come to a knowledge of God’s existence from the evidence afforded by the created universe. But this would be a natural knowledge, not supernatural faith. There would be no act of the will involved which says, ‘I believe.’ There would be only an act of the intellect which says, ‘I know’.
Moreover, the natural proofs which can be adduced for the existence of God are persuasive, not compelling. A man may listen to such proofs and still say, ‘I do not believe.’ If the natural evidence of God’s existence were so strong as to force assent, there would be no atheists in the world.
WE NEED GOD’S GIFT OF ASSISTANCE
To make the step from a merely human acceptance of God’s existence to the absolute certainty which supernatural faith gives us, we must have God’s positive assistance. Especially must we have that assistance for our assent to such humanly unknowable mysteries as the Trinity and the Incarnation.
THIS ASSISTANCE IS CALLED THE GRACE OF FAITH
To those who seek it, consciously or unconsciously, God gives this assistance. We call it the grace of faith. This is a continuing grace, not a once-in-a-lifetime grace. God is at work in us always, enabling us to grow in knowledge of Him and in the strength of our adherence to Him.
A CONTINUING GRACE, NOT A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME GRACE
The grace of faith never is withdrawn as long as we continue to cooperate with it. The grace is endangered and its force weakened any time that we expose our faith to unnecessary danger; as, for example, by unwise reading or by deliberately entertaining doubts against our faith. But the grace is not wholly lost unless and until we commit ourselves to outright disbelief in one or more of God’s revealed truths.
BEING GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR THIS GREAT GIFT OF FAITH
To cooperate with the grace of faith means to be grateful to God for this great gift. It means to make frequent acts of faith and to pray for a stronger faith. Especially it means to make our faith a living force in our lives, to make our actions accord with what we profess to believe.
‘FATHER, THY WILL, NOT MINE, BE DONE’
The more wholeheartedly we try to do God’s will, the stronger grows our faith. The more our behaviour is at odds with what we believe, the more we experience doubt and conflict. Even the best of us can expect to encounter occasional temptations against faith. However, if our doubts are not willingly courted or deliberately entertained, we need have no anxiety. God’s grace will be at work, stronger than any doubt. We cannot lose our faith unwittingly.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966 (Father’s text in inverted commas, after ***, headings in capital letters added afterwards)