Monday: 3 December, 2102 –– First Week in Advent
Isaiah 2:1–5 / Matthew 8:5–11
Levels of Faith
Pope Benedict has called the Church to a “Year of Faith.” The readings today bring faith into focus. What does it mean to have faith? Faith is an alternative way of seeing. Faith is not a mere “add-on.” Faith is not something we pull off the shelf when things get especially hard. Faith is not just a Sunday form of exercise. Faith is more than personal worship. Faith is another way of looking at everything else –– it is a world-view. The writer to the Hebrews says that faith being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (1:1). Faith is recognizing God is there, even though we cannot “see” him.
Jesus commends the centurion’s faith; he believed that Jesus, not even in proximity to the sick servant, could just give a command and the healing would come. We commemorate the words of this faith-filled centurion in every Mass: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
What do we do when our faith is not strong? If you think about it, there are levels of faith. Thomas had to see to believe, and part of Jesus’ reply to him was a gentle encouragement of faith: blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn 20:29). Then there is the father who watched the disciples fail to deliver his son of an evil spirit; when Jesus invited him to believe, the man responded: I believe; help my unbelief! (Mk 9:24).
Then we have the example of an Old Testament prophet like Isaiah. Here is a man who had incredible faith long before Jesus came. He was able to “see” things that go beyond the natural eye. His prophecies still amaze us as they pointed to Jesus’ first coming. His prophecies still baffle us –– like today’s reading –– because their total fulfillment has not happened yet; they await Jesus’ second coming.
Isaiah was given great faith because God used him to communicate special revelation –– Scripture that continues to inspire and guide us even now. The issue for us is not that we have Isaiah’s level of faith; we may not be able to “see” as he did..... BUT, we can choose to believe what Isaiah says. If we believe what Isaiah (and the rest of Scripture) says, even though the evidence is not tangible, we are exercising faith! And remember the definition of faith found in Scripture: sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
If we choose to believe what the Scriptures say and what the Church teaches, we are putting ourselves in the position of the centurion: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
And even if we sometimes struggle with that, we have this great fall-back prayer that God will honor if we pray with true desire: I believe; help my unbelief! This is our faith.... the faith that overcomes the world.