The Life of Faith
Nineteenth Sunday of the Year. Fr Thomas Crean preaches on faith, which is ‘the substance of things hoped for, the proof of what is not seen’.
Man is unable to order his own life successfully. Which of us can truly claim to be master of his own destiny? We try to surround ourselves, no doubt, with what we hope will make for happiness – friends, family, money, power.
But as fast as we seek happiness, so fast does it elude us. Friends alter, or move away. Families bring pain as well as pleasure. Money brings anxiety, or burglars, or taxes. Power brings loneliness. Even for the most successful among us, one great failure still waits in the wings – death, entering at an unknown hour. Our lives slip through our fingers like water and are done. Who will deny it?
And yet we have been made for happiness, and for nothing else. Most people feel this in their bones – otherwise, they would not continue to pursue it. Where then can it be found? Only the one who builds a maze holds the secret of how to find the way out. And only God who created the human heart can show us the secret path that leads through the labyrinth of this life into the light of Day.
We cannot, of course, yet see God. Because of this, He offers us a certain substitute for Himself, namely faith, which is like a golden thread put into our hands enabling us to walk confidently through the maze of our hearts unto him.
For what is faith? Is it simply a natural endowment which some people are fortunate enough to possess, like good vision or perfect pitch? Or a hobby which certain people choose to adopt, like gardening or the martial arts?
No. Faith is as it were a scroll sent from Heaven, a gift which God our Father puts into our hands, and which instructs us how to make our lives into a success – a success which death will not destroy but crown. This scroll we can have as our very own, unless like wilful children we let it drop through our hands, desiring some other gift. Like Antigone leading her blind father Oedipus, Faith takes us by the arm and leads us safely through all dangers, even to old age.
It sometimes happens that a father wants to give a valuable gift to his child which the child is not yet ready to receive. In this case, the father is obliged to lay up his present in some safe place until the child shall be of age. Thus the owner of a great vineyard might keep some bottles of vintage wine hidden in his wine-cellar, ready to present them to his son when the moment came.
In something of the same way, God our Father, wanting to offer to each of his children the precious gift of faith, has laid it up securely in his holy Catholic Church. This Church is like some great wine-cellar, which our Father planned long ages ago, which he sketched in outline through his prophets, but which he at last built in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The rich wine of faith is waiting for us here; it was laid down for us before we were born; here alone has it been kept fresh. We have only to come and claim the inheritance prepared for us – but we must each come in person.
What then shall we discover if we taste the wine of faith? Things which no eye has seen, nor ear heard. We shall discover our God who died for us in the flesh and rose again; who has loved us with an unfathomable love before all ages; who at the evening of this life will judge us on our love.
We shall hear of the eternal life to which he calls us, of the company of the blessed, of heaven and hell. We shall discover the just suffering persecution for what is right and yet making light of their sufferings; and we shall find that to us also is given strength to do what before seemed impossible – to keep God’s law, to forgive our enemies, to trust in God. Only the life of faith is without regrets.