BELIEVING IS SOMETHING ELSE
We’re living in times in which it seems that the only way to be able to believe the truth, for many ends up learning to believe in another way. Already the great convert John Henry Newman announced this situation when he warned that a faith that is passive, inherited and not thought through would end up among people as «indifference», and among simple people as «superstition». It’s good to remember some essential aspects of what faith is.
Faith is always a personal experience. It’s not enough to believe in what others preach to us about God. Each one alone believes definitively what one truly believes in the depth of the heart before God, not what one hears was said to others. To believe in God it’s necessary to pass from a faith that’s passive, infantile, inherited to one that more responsible and personal. This is the first question: Do I believe in God or do I believe in those who speak to me about God?
In faith not everything is equal. You need to know how to differentiate what’s essential and what’s secondary, and after 20 centuries, there’s a lot that secondary in our Christianity. The faith of those who trust in God is way beyond words, theological discussions and Church norms. What defines a Christian isn’t being virtuous or observant but living confident in a God who is near us by knowing ourselves loved without condition. This could be the second question: Do I trust in God or do I get trapped in other secondary questions?
In faith what’s important isn’t affirming that you believe in God but knowing in what God you believe. There’s nothing more decisive than what idea each person has of God. If I believe in an authoritarian and avenging God, then I’ll end up trying to dominate and judge others. If I believe in a God who is love and forgiveness, then I’ll go about loving and forgiving. The question could be: In what God do I believe – in a God who responds to my ambitions and interests or in the living God revealed in Jesus?
Faith, on the other hand, isn’t a kind of «capital» that we receive in baptism and from which we can make use of for the rest of life. Faith is a living attitude that keeps us attentive to God, open every day to God’s mystery of being near and of loving each human person.
Mary is the best model of this living and trusting faith. A woman who knows how to listen to God in the depths of her heart and how to live open to God’s plan of salvation. Her cousin Elizabeth praises her with these memorable words: «Blessed are you who believed!». Blessed also are you if you learn to believe. It’s the best things that could happen to you in your life.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf