having faith seems to be a little bit like having Soul. what it Soul? it’s hard to define - but cool people who have Soul will quickly tell you if someone has it, or not.
having faith seems to be similar for many people I talk to. they aren’t able to easily define what Faith is, but they want to have it, and it’s assumed having more of it is always a good thing. so i’m wondering what is the substance of faith?
recently i did some reflections on the Fruit of the Spirit (the bible: letter to the galatians 5:22) - the author (paul?) uses the analogy of fruit to describe the qualities or values of the good life. faithfulness is on the list, and as I reflected on that i began to wonder about the relationship between having faith and being faithful. at first (mostly because of how I have been trained to think about faith) i assumed they were different things. but I am beginning to think that they are precisely the same. having faith will be quickly seen in a person that is faithful. a faithful person expresses faith in Ways or Values that they are faithful to - even when the results don’t seem to be going the way they would prefer…
Last week news broke about Mother Teresa. A book is being published - a collection of correspondence spanning her whole life which reflects that she “felt abandoned by God“. TIME’s article describes the contrast between the cheery face she portrayed to the world and the personal anguish she experienced in her own spirit. She is quoted in a letter as saying “Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me–The silence and the emptiness is so great–that I look and do not see,–Listen and do not hear.”(1979)
this raises some very interesting questions for the church about the nature of spiritual experience, whether we can expect joy in the journey, etc. Also it raises questions about sainthood and what it means to be a saint. Did Teresa lack integrity by hiding her anguish and presenting a mask of happiness and contentment? Or does this revelation about her personal experience of God further emphasise her piety?
I have never been offended by the discovery that a saintly person has darkness in their life. In fact, i appreciate the discovery for the way in which is confirms that there is no easy way to God. All of us who are human are going to have to walk through the mist, and sometimes through the mud. But more than that, this new insight into Teresa’s life sheds light on my earlier questions about Faith and faithfulness. I was brought up to believe that having faith involved believing certain things - heaven knows what you were (or are) supposed to do if you honestly and truthfully DON’T believe those certain things… The most common problem with this understanding though is that Faith becomes like having Soul - we believe it exists, but how to nail it down? how to get some of this stuff?
Teresa offers us a simpler and more accessible understanding of Faith - having faith is expressed in being faithful. “Do I have faith?” can be rephrased with “Have I been faithful?” What this means - for me - is that believing (mental agreement) is of lesser importance. I’m convinced about some things… some things I just can’t bring myself to believe… but Keeping the Faith is - more and more for me - not so much about trying to convince my head to believe things I don’t believe, but rather about being faithful to Values - a Way - that I trust (no matter how I feel) is the way I want to go…
you could summarise it this way: whether God exists or not - i want to be faithful to the ways of gentleness and peace and compassion… and faithfulness to these ways will not be determined by how close i feel to God, but rather by the conviction that these are the Values I want to define my life.