The Joy of Faith
There are two kinds of faith, natural and supernatural. Natural faith is the trust we put in one another. Supernatural faith is the power God gives us to put our trust in Him. Where natural faith weakens or fails due to betrayal, hurt, broken promises, suffering, and death, supernatural faith succeeds. Natural faith depends on how others respond to us while supernatural faith gives us the power to respond to others as God responds to us. This is the faith that brings joy because it empowers us to repair damaged natural faith through compassion and forgiveness. What does it enable us to do that natural faith can’t do? It gives us, “Confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” (Heb 11:1) Supernatural faith gives us hope and confidence, which generate a joyful spirit within us. A joyful person is always hopeful and confident concerning the present and future. We possess that hope and confident assurance only when we have faith in God. Then we know that because we trust in God, who has given us the power to have faith in Him, He has faith in us first. When we realize that God has faith in us we’re able to have faith in our self. The more we have faith in our self, due to God’s faith in us, the more we can have faith in others, despite misunderstandings, flaws, sinfulness, and shortcomings. God gave us that gift the day we were baptized into Jesus’ Church and reinforced it in Confirmation. This is the source of our joy even when betrayed by our fellow men and women. Sadly, in our relationship with God and others we tend to operate more out of natural than supernatural faith, which leaves us open to fear, wrath, vengefulness, and relying on the wrong things to find joy in our life.
The Scripture readings chosen by Jesus’ Church for this 4th Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Laetare (to rejoice) Sunday, present us with the effects of both natural and supernatural faith. Both kinds of faith provide the foundation for hope and love. Without faith both hope and love are impossible. But when natural love fades and hope turns to despair supernatural faith empowers us to continue loving and hoping. Because God created each of us to be faithful to Him so we can enjoy the hope and love He wants us to have, He has given us the ability to have a faith that lasts. Whether we act out of supernatural or natural faith depends on which one we choose to live by. The reading from 2nd Chronicles (36:14-16, 19-23) depicts the Israelites’ rejection of their supernatural faith in God in favour of natural faith in what they created themselves. Their princes, priests, and people “added infidelity to infidelity … polluting the Lord’s temple … early and often did the Lord send His messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people … But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His warnings, and scoffed at His prophets.” Because God had supernatural faith in His people He didn’t destroy them even though they rejected Him as the source of their joy in favour of satisfying their carnal desires which brought them only destruction and exile by their enemies. But God always acts out of supernatural faith and so He offered His unfaithful people forgiveness. He inspired Cyrus, King of Babylon, to free the Israelites from exile and return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple. Forgiveness and compassion are always joyful signs of supernatural faith in action.
This Faith is not something that we can give ourselves; it is a gift from God “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions brought us to life in Christ – by grace you have been saved … through faith.” (Eph 2:4-10) We can’t earn it no matter how faithful we are. Actually our faithfulness is the result of that gift of faith. Despite our sinfulness, God gives us the gift of faith that makes us confidently joyful in our loving and hoping.
How do we get that faith? Since we have free will we have to personally choose to invite God’s Spirit to join and guide our spirit. The Holy Spirit always leads us to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lor!’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3) We experience the joy of supernatural faith when we embrace Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. This is why real Christians are always joyful, even in the midst of sorrow, pain, hurt, and death. Even in the face of betrayal, rejection, and abuse, supernatural faith enables us to joyfully forgive and be compassionate. We experience God’s joy, compassion, and forgiveness through Jesus in His Church’s Sacrament of Penance.
Faith in God makes us joyful because in Jesus He demonstrated His faith in us by restoring us to His likeness that we lost through sin. For this reason the Holy Spirit revealed: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believed in Him may have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (Jn 3:14-21) To highlight our responsibility for the choices we freely make, the Holy Spirit warns us that “whoever does not believe has already been condemned because he has not believed in the Name of God’s only Son.” Faith in Jesus is the only source of permanent joy.
The focus of supernatural faith is trust in Jesus Christ because He gives us confident assurance concerning what we hope for, namely eternal happiness, and conviction about things we do not see, namely what the future holds for us. God’s faith in us is expressed in His love and hope for us: “As I live, says the Lord God, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live. Turn, turn from your evil ways.” (Ezek 33:11) Jesus reinforces this revelation when He said: “I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.” (Lk 15:7) The joy of faith becomes evident in our hope that conquers despair and our love that conquers hate. (frsos)