Faith is a Gift, Belief is a Choice

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The theme for all the annual San Antonio Catholic Men’s Conferences (sponsored by the Pilgrim Center of Hope) is taken from Sunday’s Gospel, “Master, I want to see.”

Bartimaeus was physically blind, but because of his faith the Lord healed him. We chose this theme because we realized that there is a blindness that is worse than physical blindness. It affects not only men, but all of society, and we all need to be healed from it.

As Jesus taught the crowds two thousand years ago he said, “…they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” Mk 4:12

To accept Jesus as our Savior and undergo conversion goes against our nature. We think we know what is best for us and we want to rely on our own resources, our own intelligence, our own understanding. It is from this way thinking that we need conversion and forgiveness.

In baptism we received the theological gift of faith, but what is faith? The theologian St. Thomas Aquinas gives us an insight. He says, “The object of faith is not something seen or sensed; nor, in it self, is this object grasped by the intellect,” (Tour of the Summa).

Perhaps this is what we could call the difficulty of faith. Our intellectual desire is to understand all things, but there are some things that God has revealed to us that are beyond our understanding. Sometimes we must surrender our intelligence to God in order to believe. As we draw close to God we should love more to believe than to understand in matters of faith, because it is our faith that causes us to have hope and live in charity. It has been proven through the ages that true faith in God has inspired men and women to live heroic lives of virtue and experience great happiness that has been the means of hope not only for themselves, but also for others.

Faith is more than saying we believe in God. Again, an insight from Thomas Aquinas: “The internal act of faith is the unhesitant assent of the mind or intellect, under the direction of the will, to the truth that is proposed for belief upon sufficient authority. In the case of religious faith, the authority is God, who is truth itself.”

This internal faith must lead us to an external witness. St. James tells us, “Be assured, then that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath,” (James 3:26). If our faith does not influence our decisions it is dead. If our faith does not inspire us to pray daily, read the scriptures and worship God it is dead. If we are not concerned about discovering what God’s plan is for us and then using the gifts He has given us to build up on the Body of Christ, our faith is dead.

Jesus came to speak about the urgency of the kingdom of God because the kingdom of God is at hand for those who believe, and unbelief leads to hopelessness. If we do not have a sense of the urgency of the kingdom of God, then we have eyes, but we do not see, ears but we do not hear, and hearts that have not yet been converted. The world is as it is because we have not placed God at the center of our lives, at the center of our families.

Our Lord is patient for our salvation, but the longer we take to cooperate with His graces, the greater are the consequences for ourselves and for others.

If we still have enough faith to know that we must make some changes in our lives, then we should say along with Bartimaeus, “Master, I want to see!” The Lord will begin to show us what we must do. It was Bartimaeus who initiated the dialogue with Jesus. Even though he was told to keep silent, he continued to ask for pity, and Jesus said, “Call him!” And when he came forward Jesus said to him “What do you want me to do for you?” – even though he knew he was blind. Jesus knows what we need, and yet he often waits to see if we have enough faith to ask, for ourselves or on behalf of someone else. He begs us to ask him.

He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest,” (Matt 11:28).

What is it that you want to ask of Jesus? He already knows what you need, but he may be waiting for you to approach him in faith. Remember the words of the disciples to Bartimaeus, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you!”

It may seem like a big risk to ask Jesus for something because we know he may want something from us in return. What he wants from us is our trust. He wants us to experience the joy of being a child of God and living in a relationship with Him in which we will discover our true dignity. There are some things we can do that will prepare our hearts to see and hear our Lord, so that we can be converted and forgiven.

We must make a commitment to pray daily. How much should we pray? Probably more than we are praying now. No matter how much we are praying now, we can do better. Prayer could change the world if we would pray with our hearts.

Our Lord has given us the sacraments because he knows we need his grace to discover and live the plan he has for each of us. Frequent Confession, daily Mass when possible, quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, reading the Scriptures and being united with the Mother of Jesus by praying the Rosary daily will help us to see more clearly the spiritual battle we are involved in each day.

May the grace of God give us all the confidence we need to approach Him with our concerns and petitions, and help us to see and hear more clearly His great plan for us. Remember: Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice.

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About Deacon Tom Fox

Deacon Tom Fox is the co-founder of The Pilgrim Center of Hope. The Pilgrim Log is the blog of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry, providing weekly spiritual reflections to help you journey toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Learn more about the Pilgrim Center of Hope by visiting www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

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