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... From the Goodnews archives, Mar/Apr 2008

 

The faith that moves mountains

 

Fr Emile Lafranz, now deceased, was a member of the US National Service Committee and a director of the Centre of Jesus the Lord in New Orleans. Below he reflects on the importance of the charism of faith.

 

Christian faith, according to its classic definition in the Epistle to the Hebrews (11.1) is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” “By faith,” writes St Thomas Aquinas, “the Christian soul enters, as it were, into marriage with God: “I will espouse you to me in faith.” (Hos 2.20).

Thomas goes on to explain that we accept God’s knowledge by faith and are joined thereby to him. Faith’s principle object is God himself: other things are subsidiary, and dependent (Disputations Concerning Truth 14.8). In his Summa Theologica, the angelic doctor explains that by habit of faith the human mind is directed to assent to such things as are becoming to a right faith, and not to assent to others (1:4, 2:2).

The light of faith enables us to accept with certainty what cannot be demonstrated by reason. St Thomas More, in his Meditations and Devotions, makes an important point when he states that a man may believe religious truths, but not appropriate these truths for his own life. In other words, saving faith requires that we related what we believe to our ordinary actions. Obedience must accompany belief. There is a danger that we focus too exclusively on assenting knowledge, making faith primarily a head trip.

Faith is surrendering all

Faith is mainly trust. Abraham becomes our model because “in hope he believed against hope”(Rom 4:16) He accepted God as the God of the impossible, surrendering all to Him.

The virtue of faith, which we receive as a gift from God in baptism, enables us to believe and to trust. This saving faith is the source of all religious life, and it causes us to rely on God in all circumstances of our lives. We begin to realise that with saving faith all things will work together for good. Jesus has won the victory, and we can depend upon Him more and more. Faith is really a way of living. Gifted with supernatural faith, we live the life of Jesus in union with Him (John 15), and continue his mission (John 20). Gradually, the words of Paul become realized in our lives: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2.20)

Many Christians believe and trust, but they still feel something is missing. There is a powerlessness to go beyond their own abilities to do what Jesus said they would do in His name (John 14.10). They don’t experience signs and wonders accompanying their belief. At times, they even feel overcome by heavy demonic attack, the influence of the world, and their own weaknesses. Where is the power that Jesus promised his followers?

God wants his people to believe and trust

God wants his people to believe and to trust. He also wants us to expect that He will work in our lives in dramatic and awesome ways. He expects that we will allow Him to cure the lame, the blind and the broken today. He expects that we give Him permission to bind and cast out the demons of destruction in our world today.

Besides theological faith, Scripture speaks of the charismatic gift of faith. It is a gift born of expectancy in our hearts that takes Jesus at His word. He does want to reform, renew, and revive us in ordinary as well as extraordinary ways. In acts 6.8, we find St Stephen performing great wonders and signs “full of grace and power”. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.9, writes of a faith that makes one able to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit in performing healing and works of power. Expectancy opens the door for the charismatic gift by which there is an intensification of one’s trust in and awareness of God acting in this moment to even move mountains and do what would ordinarily be humanly impossible. When accompanied by a high degree of saving faith, expectant faith becomes a powerful means to build up the body of Christ.

We must recognise, however, that power without love leads to a love for power. This can only hinder the mission of Christ. Virtue and charismatic faith are both needed for the permanent revival that is so necessary in our day, for Christianity to become believable. It must also be stated that expectant faith is in no way simply a “confess it and claim it” theory. This puts the faith in ourselves and not in the Lord. It also avoids the important step of listening first to how the Lord wants to work in the situation, and only then do we act with His empowerment.

Need for expectant faith

I have seen many dramatic things happen as a result of expectant faith. I, likewise, believe that the challenge the Lord is giving to the Charismatic Renewal is that we become a holy people where revival is happening as our faith expectancy increases to the point where His kingdom becomes visibly present through love, signs and wonders.

Mature faith must involve believing, obedience, trust and expectancy. Fr Prat, in his “Theology of St Paul”, describes what results as “an invincible confidence founded on the theological faith and ensured by a supernatural instinct that God, in a given case, will manifest His power, His justice, and His mercy.” (vol 1, p42).

A community where expectant faith is emphasized becomes the focal point for conversion and evangelisation. Scripture comes alive because the words begin to be demonstrated in our midst.

“Have faith in God. In truth I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Be pulled up and thrown into the sea,” with no doubt in his heart, but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” (Mt 11.22-23)

“He rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Mt 8.26)
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is God’s power for salvation for all who believe.” (Rom 1:16)

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Mt 7.7)

Lord increase our faith! Bring revival to your Church, so that your Church may point the way to your kingdom with extraordinary power and love. Make your people, Lord, a clear sign of your sovereign presence. May all creation find its way back to you and the Father through the expectant faith of your people..


Reprinted from Jan/Feb 1995 newsletter of the SCRC Spirit, the newsletter for the Southern California Renewal Communities.

 

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