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Growing Faith

Because the gift of faith provides us with our Christian Vision, it is the engine that drives our living the spiritual growth process and our growth in relationship to Christ. One would think that high priority would be given to growing in faith, especially when the business of religion is all about mystery─the mystery of who God is, the mystery of what God has done for us.

Doesn’t just the opposite happen? Faith becomes some kind of a buffer against spiritual mysteries. If some dogma is a matter of faith, we don’t have to think about it seriously. Or worse, we speak about dogmas, as if we fully understand them. This mindset leads us to pray without meaning or heart. The end result is that we tend to take the mystery out of the mysteries in the spiritual life. Yet, in other phases of our lives, mystery is the source of wonder, romance and creativity.

Wonderful Faith. Prayer is a profound act of faith, and grows our faith. However, to bring energy to our spiritual life, we must acknowledge, accept and celebrate mystery in our prayer. We can do this by creating psychic distance between ourselves and dogmas so that we can rejoice in their mystery. For example: “Jesus, You are God incarnate. How incredible! HOW WONDERFUL!” Or, “Spirit of Jesus, You are my Higher Power Who guides and enlightens me. How preposterous! HOW WONDERFUL!”

Rather than ignore or run away from mystery, we must embrace it with all our mind, heart and will. By nature, we are controllers. We want to control everything. Mystery affronts our rationality. By rejoicing in mystery, we are acting against our nature. However, in this way, we unleash wonder, romance and creativity in our spiritual lives.

Reinforced Faith. Our faith gives us our Christian Vision. By raising our awareness of the Christian Vision as life’s ultimacy, we reinforce our faith. Prayer is both an expression of our Christian Vision and a plea for greater faith in that Vision. When we pray: “My God, be the center of my life”, we actualize our faith that God is the center of our lives and we pray for God-centeredness. Our faith is reinforced!

Prayer seeking to see God present in everyday life is an extension of the Christian Vision, and grows our faith. It can be simply expressed: “Lord, help me to believe that my life-events are Spirit-laden, that my crosses are the Spirit’s whispers, and that my deep, positive feelings and desires are the Spirit’s prompts to take action or to change my values. And help me to be open to the Spirit’s presence.”

Further, kerygmatic evangelization, radiating out our faith, hope and love, reinforces our faith in the Christian Vision by  proclaiming the Good News.

Also, we grow our faith by living a life of radical love, for the theological virtues are a dynamic process, each impacting the other. In Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, a wise man says of faith: “Love your neighbors actively and tirelessly. The more you succeed in loving, the more you will be convinced of the existence of God.”

Superficial Faith. Our level of understanding of what we believe impacts the potential level of our faith. Unfortunately, spiritual truths do not carry labels indicating the appropriate level at which they ought to be considered. For example, one can understand the Incarnation as an historical event and that would be correct, but our understanding would be superficial. At a higher level, one understands the Incarnation as the ongoing process of the Risen Christ living within us. That understanding has the potential to deepen our faith in Christ dramatically, because it helps us to enter more deeply into our relationship with Christ. An inadequate understanding of spiritual truths results in an impoverished view of the Christian Vision, and thus, an impoverished faith.