“Show me the money!” This often quoted line from the movie, Jerry Maguire, could well be the slogan of our material world. We want to see the money. We want some proof. We expect some sort of guarantee. Faith in the world depends upon some sort of demonstration or experience of reliability. “I’ll believe it when I see it.” In the world, faith is often built upon some sensory experience. I believe in what I can touch, see, hear, smell or taste. Our faith in Christ Jesus also has its beginning in sensory experiences. Through the Incarnation, the divine life of God was made visible and tangible to human persons. The Prologue to the First Letter of John begins with this experience: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us;” (1Jn 1,1ff) Our faith life in Jesus the Christ begins with an experience of encounter with the Risen Jesus but it leads us always to “something more.” In the gospel of John, Jesus says to Thomas: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20,29) Natural faith is a beginning in our relationship with Jesus but the gift of supernatural faith allows us to journey beyond the sensory world and enter into the life of the Spirit.
There is a yearning in our souls for a greater experience of life beyond what we have seen. Once we knew Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, in the flesh, but we no longer know him that way. Now we know Jesus through the Spirit that has been given to us and poured into our hearts. Now we walk a different path of faith, a supernatural gift of faith that allows us to share more deeply in the Divine Life of the Father. We ask God to bestow this gift of faith upon us. Like the apostles in the gospel of Luke we entreat the Lord, “Increase our faith.” (Lk 17,5) Natural faith is so limited and can only give us a hint of what is truly available to us in life. Jesus replies to his apostles request for faith: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Lk 17,6) The supernatural gift of faith surpasses the limits of natural faith. It allows us to believe that with God all things are possible.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews defines faith for us: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11,1) Natural faith allows us to walk a known path that soon comes to its end. Supernatural faith allows us to journey on into the unknown and unseen world and experience the fullness of the divine life of God. This gift of God gives us courage to place all of our trust in God and in his divine providence. St. Paul tells Timothy, “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord…Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.” (2Tim 1,6-14) The gift of faith allows us to be courageous in this world as we set our hearts on a world yet to come. St. Paul describes it to the Corinthians: “So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.” (2Cor 5,6-9)
When we ask the Lord to, “Increase our faith,” we are often subjected to a time of purification and purgation that will test our faith and our love for the Lord. The “dark night” is a time of purification of the senses and of the spirit so that we no longer rely upon our senses or consolations of the spirit to bolster our faith but we place all of our trust in the Lord. Many of the saints endured this spiritual darkness in their lives. During this time we cry out like Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen!” (Hab 1,2) During this time the Lord asks us to wait, do not be rash and give up on our spiritual journey into the heart of God but trust that he will lead us with the light of faith into a deeper, richer and more fruitful life of true joy. He encourages us, “The just one, because of his faith, shall live.” (Hab 2,4)