What is Faith?

What is faith?

A number of years ago priest and spiritual writer Henry Nouwen made friends with a group of circus artists. They then invited him to go travelling with them for a week which he accepted. One day he was talking to the trapeze artist who told him “I may look like the star of the show but the real star is the catcher. You see the catcher has to be there at the precise moment to catch me as I fly through the air. I have to trust that they will be there. If I try to grab their hands I will either break their wrists or break mine and that would spell disaster.”

Like last Sunday, this Sunday’s Gospel is all about faith. It raises the question what is faith?

Firstly, it is about having faith in someone or something (trust). For a Christian it is putting our trust in Jesus. Like the trapeze artist placing his trust in the catcher it is believing that God will always be there for us and that God’s timing is the right timing.

Secondly, it is about a way of seeing. Bishop Robert Barron said that Christianity is a way of seeing. “Everything else in Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation of vision. Our Christian faith therefore is our vision of the way we see life.” Faith allows room for doubt, critical thinking and questioning. What it is does not allow for is obstinacy and narrow mindedness. These are obstacles to faith. This was the attitude of the people of Nazareth when Jesus returned to his home town. They could not believe that God could possibly work through a person who came from an insignificant town, who had an insignificant occupation and who lived within an ordinary family. They refused to see beyond these categories thus limiting their vision in the process.

Thirdly faith is about being humble. In our second reading Paul illustrates this wonderfully when he speaks about his initial desire for God to remove the ‘thorn in the flesh’ but then comes to realize that God’s grace was enough for him. When Paul realized the truth of the Lord’s revelation he said ‘when I am weak it is then that I am strong.’ Like the trapeze artist, despite his profile, Paul realizes he is not the star of the show.

Last week’s Gospel stories of faith and today’s Gospel story about a lack of faith invite us to see where we stand in regards to our faith journey. Do we trust that God’s power can work wherever through whomever he chooses? When we pray can we wait patiently trusting that God’s timing in answering our prayers is always best? The Nazarene had fixed ideas on how God should exercise his power. Can we avoid this mistake and simply allow God to be the God of our lives?