Faith. The very word has a kind of religious sound to it. Something which belongs to the world of devotion and not to the world of hard facts. But actually, faith is something shared by many people both inside and outside the Church. Without faith, life as we know it would be almost impossible.
For a moment or two, let’s look at faith leaving religion out of the picture. Where do we find faith outside the church? Well, Faith is a quality which makes things possible: for example:
- young people study for qualifications or skills in the faith that this will help them make a career and improve their lives
- men and women enter marriage, committing themselves to another in love 'for richer or poorer, better or worse', in faith that they will make one path through life and find fulfilment in that
- many people believe that there is an underlying justice at work in life. That virtue will be rewarded, and selfishness will not. In particular, they believe that if you give to the common good, then everybody will benefit.
Faith is creative. It opens up new possibilities. It opens us up to new possibilities. It brings out courage and commitment and other things in us. Without faith a lot of life would be poorer. So it's not as if you have the religious people on one side and non-believers on the other, one lot having faith, the other not. We are all in this together. All people have to have faith. Without a certain amount of faith the world would be stuck. Stuck in cynicism, stuck in fear. Unable to move forward.
Faith in God works the same way. Doors open for us. New possibilities emerge. In today's second reading: 'By faith Abraham set out … without knowing where he was going.' In what is today upper Iraq, Abraham felt this nagging call from God to set out and seek a new land in which he would found a new people. From his answering God's call to set out with his family a whole new people of God emerged: ultimately, a thousand years later, Jesus himself. Three thousand years later, you and me here, still a people of faith.
A huge development. A great breakthrough in relationship of God and the world. Yet Abraham could not know this, or at least only grasped a small part of the picture. What was asked of him was faithfulness at each stage of the journey. One step at a time. And one step at a time, one stage of the journey after the other, great things were accomplished. God was with his people and more and more a mighty revelation could take place, culminating in the incarnation, God among us.
Of course, to the public at large, those who have no faith in God, that is a step too far. The irony is that they see it as unreasonable but do not realise how big a role faith plays in their own lives. As I said earlier, without a basic faith that good will be rewarded, life would get no where, civilisation would get nowhere. We would be living stunted, impoverished lives.
But that brings us to a fascinating realisation: that without realising it, so many people who say that they do not believe in God in fact rely on God all the time. God is there hidden and unrecognised in their lives, as they make commitments, believe in the power of love, as they assume that this is a world where goodness is rewarded and selfishness is not. 'By faith Abraham set out …' The truth is that all of us have faith, believers and unbelievers alike. The difference is that those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear know that we walk with God on our journey, and that God walks with us.
Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London. His new book: Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see: www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=16114