REFLECTING ON THE GIFT OF FAITH
By Archbishop JOSÉ H. GOMEZ of Los Angeles
Our faith in Jesus Christ is a beautiful treasure and a precious gift.
But we need to always remember that our faith is a gift. We received it.
That means none of us came to our faith alone. None of us knows the love of Jesus Christ because we thought it up by ourselves. We know Jesus and we became children of God because someone else knew him first and told us about him. Because someone else had faith before us.
This is the beauty of the family of the Church. This is the mystery of the Communion of Saints. St. Paul said, “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”
This tells us something more about our faith. Faith is a gift that God gives to each one — but this gift can only reach us through the witness of others.
So faith never starts with us. Faith begins with God and his love for us. Faith begins with God’s call for each one of us to share in his love, to live in his love.
God’s call comes to us from Jesus. How often in the Gospel we hear Jesus saying to people, “Come and see.” We come to know God and his love for us by believing in Jesus and giving our lives to him — by following him, by coming and seeing.
The first Christians spoke of faith and Baptism as “light” and “enlightenment.” They spoke of having the eyes of their hearts opened by the light of Christ. Think of all the Gospel stories about the eyes of the blind being opened. Think of all the Easter stories: “And their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
These stories are all meant to point us to the meaning of our faith. Faith is seeing our lives and our world with new eyes. Faith is recognizing Jesus Christ as the light of our world and the light of our lives. And again, faith means being a witness.
What is a witness, anyway? A witness is someone who has seen something and then goes and tells others about what he has seen.
Our faith makes us missionaries. The treasure we have received, we are called to share. What we have seen and experienced of God’s love — the joy of knowing Jesus and his salvation — compels us to bear witness, to tell others and to call them to join us in being children of God in his family, the Church.
I am reflecting on these things because our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed a special “Year of Faith.” It will begin on Oct. 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and will continue until Nov. 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
He has also called a special meeting of the world’s bishops, the Synod of Bishops, for Oct. 2012 to consider “The New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
The Holy Father is calling us to really reflect on the gift of faith and our duty to communicate the faith to the men and women of our time.
This is a beautiful opportunity for us — as individuals and as a Church — to dedicate ourselves to growing in our knowledge of our faith and our desire to share our faith with others.
Pope Benedict has written a beautiful apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”). I urge everyone to read it. It is available on the Vatican’s website and I will link to it on my Facebook page.
We need to “rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith,” the Pope tells us.
He writes: “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness. … Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, ‘strengthen themselves by believing.’ … Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God.”
As we pray for one another this week, let us ask in a special way for an increase in the gift of faith — for ourselves and for every person in our great Archdiocese.
We have a year to prepare for this Year of Faith. So let’s begin praying and thinking about how we can make this special time of grace fruitful in our lives and in the lives of our Church.
And let us entrust ourselves more completely to Mary, the Mother of God, who was “blessed because she believed.” VN
Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.