A man once told Jesus, “I do believe. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The Apostles asked Jesus to “strengthen our faith” (Luke 17:5). Jesus once wondered out loud, “When I return do you think I will find any faith left on earth” (Luke 18:8)? Faith and the sustaining of it, which is truly “faithfulness”, is no easy thing.
The great enemy of faith is fear. Peter can testify to this as he tried to walk on water or in the High Priest’s courtyard after Jesus’ arrest. All the Apostles can attest to this in the Garden of Gethsemane.
We see how often Jesus and angels are telling people—Mary, Joseph, the Apostles and disciples, those being healed – “Don’t be afraid.” We hear again and again from Jesus these two words—fear and faith—together: Why are you afraid? Don’t be afraid. There is no reason to fear. Just Believe. Where is your faith? Why are you so slow to believe? How little faith you have!
Fear is something we all know. Perhaps the greatest fear comes when we realize how much is not in our control. This is surely true of nature. It is true of events. It is true of other people. It is true of “the future”. It is even true of ourselves (self-control). All of this can be very frightening. We equate control with security, with safety, with predictability. The few things we have in our control we tend to hold on to very tightly.
If hope is a “stubborn virtue”, faith is a fragile one. In the end, for each of us, it comes down to how much, how deeply we can believe that God does love us and only loves us. Only love is stronger than fear and casts out fear and allows faith to flourish. Love is the cause of all faithfulness.
Can we believe that God’s love for us has nothing to do with worthiness? It is pure gift. The answer to the question “Why do you love me?” is never a list of “reasons”. The answer is: “because I love you”.
This love-induced faith allows us to open our hands before God and say: “Whatever you want to take from my hands, you may take. Whatever you want to place in my hands, you may place”.
In looking at vocation we realize the same. “Why did you call me? Not surely because of my worthiness or virtue or strength.” The answer is always simply, “I called you because I called you”.
In this Year of Faith we are called to try to deepen our faith by overcoming our fears. Doubt is normal and regular and faith can live with doubt. We believe despite our doubts. It is fear rather that is the killer of faith. In this Year of Faith, we hear Jesus tell the disciples and us, “Banish your fear and believe in me”. (Jn 14:27) Believe, believe, and believe in my love.
Fr. Frank Quinlivan, C.S.C., just finished a term as the Provincial Superior of the Holy Cross Priests in Bangladesh. He first went to Bangladesh as a missionary from the United States Province of Priests and Brothers. He shared this reflection on faith with the Spes Unica Blog as part of our coverage of the Year of Faith.