"Help my unbelief."

Readings: Hab.1.2-2.4; Ps. 95; 2 Tim. 1.6-14; Lk. 17.5-10

I suspect most of us can identify with the apostles' plea: "Help my unbelief." When have you, or do you experience a struggle with faith? Perhaps over some abstract teachings and rules of the Church, or in flesh and blood situations which involve suffering? For me, my faith gets tested when, in my fairly ignorant opinion, I think that the leaders of the Church fail to be sufficiently pro-active in dealing with issues. In any case, most of us struggle with our faith, sooner or later.

Faith: what is it, why do we need it, and how do we grow in it?

Faith. St. Paul teaches that faith is "belief in those things that are as yet unseen." Faith cannot be proven. If faith could be proven, it would be fact, not faith. The catechism teaches that faith is "belief in God and acceptance of his revealed truth." Faith, by extension, can be applied to ourselves and things, e.g., "you have to have faith in yourself," or "you have to have faith in your golf swing." Fundamentally, however, faith is applied to God. We Catholics and mainline Christians every Sunday, say the Nicene Creed, namely, "We believe in a Trinitarian God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. God is our Judge, who is mysteriously all just and all forgiving at the same time. God sees our minds, hearts, and souls; he knows our strengths and weaknesses. And he still loves us.

We have faith in God's revealed truths. We accept the Bible as God's self-revelation. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself to his chosen people through the Law, prophets, and wisdom writers. In the New Testament, God reveals himself in Jesus, and through the four gospels and numerous epistles. Based in the Bible, the Church teaches various truths which we accept, and repeat in the Creed every Sunday.

Why do we need faith? "The purpose of our lives is to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be happy with him in eternal life." We want to love, but we become confused and weak-willed at times. God, however, is absolute Love. This loving person of God naturally needs to reveal himself, to express himself, to communicate himself. An example of love comes from couples who oftentimes say to me, "Father, my spouse has brought me out of my shell." I say, "Thanks be to God. That is exactly what love is intended to do." Love draws forth the beloved. Love gives the trust, comfort, security, and strength, to enable the beloved to express his/her love. Many times, our love is relatively hidden or hesitant for whatever reasons. Similarly, God who is love beckons us forth. We are God's beloved. God whispers to us that he loves us, and wants us to accept and to love him. God is love, who cannot act otherwise than in love. Why do we need faith? Because God wants us to come to the fullness of our spiritual potential. And God needs us in the world to be his hands, his voice, his presence, his agents, or as St. Paul describes it, God's ambassadors in the world. We who have first been loved, how can we not love God in return?

How do we grow in faith? How do two lovers grow in faith in each other? Faith requires time, physical presence, communication, reciprocity in giving and getting, desire to be with and to grow old with the other. Two things especially are foundational: private prayer and public prayer. 1) Privately, from waking up in our beds until we return to our beds, and lying in our beds overnight, let's be thinking about and talking with God. The Scriptures say, "God speaks to his beloved in their sleep." Many people in our society live in a hyperactive way. Many times, we fail to rest, slow down, be quiet, smell the roses. I myself once put a sign inside my medicine cabinet: "One of the best things you can do today is to do nothing." Strange, how we have to re-learn how to rest and relax. Take time privately to talk with God. 2) Be at Sunday Mass, every Sunday. That is not the priests' rule. That is God's rule, and the Church's rule. Don't say that you're too busy for Sunday Mass, one hour per week. The rule of thumb is, "If you're too busy for God, you are too busy." Set priorities. Choose the things that last forever. Live in this life with your eyes set on eternal life. Keep your feet on the ground, but keep your vision focused on eternal life with God and all your loved ones.

In conclusion, "keep the faith, grow in faith, by practicing the Catholic faith."

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley