Reflection on Faith

For the last few weeks I have been reflecting on faith, hope, and charity, especially on faith. canyon de chelly spider-rocks Trying to understand it better because it is one of the ways we touch God.  When someone loses faith, he loses the ability to reach out and touch Him.  A wall goes up. Total isolation.  I remember when I was away from the church several years ago, I had many doubts about Christ, especially; yet I yearned for faith again.  The terrifying thing is that faith is indeed a gift; you can’t just make yourself believe.  If you don’t, you don’t and can’t.  I wrote this reflection on faith when I was most in the dark, a reflection which shows a remarkable insight into some of the characteristics of true faith:

“FAITH is such an abstract. How strange we are, or at least how strange I am. I often question what it is I believe, yet I never question that I believe. Is it because Faith is a posture of the spirit, an attitude, an openness? Let me share with you a short poem I found by the noted native American writer, N. Scott Momoday, a Kiowa Indian born in 1934. He writes:

“To a Child Running with Outstretched Arms in Canyon de Chelly”

ivory-coast-child-running_photoYou are small and intense
In your excitement, whole,
Embodied in delight.
The background is immense;
The sanddrifts break and roll
Through cleavages of light
And shadow.
You embrace
The spirit of this place.

      “You can see it, can’t you? A little child running into the endless expanse of the great Southwest–black hair streaming, arms wide, running wide open, holding nothing back? This vision is Faith. It’s the color and grain of Faith the way a child wears it: close to the skin and in between the toes.

      “This kind of Faith I can go for: believing with all my heart though I too am small against the immense background of all the people who confuse me with controversy or politics, policy or violence, or the contortions of love that never work out quite the way I have come to expect.

       “This is my kind of Faith: belief with its hair down, an intense, running, outstretched human being flung open in innocence, vulnerable in delight.

      “I want this kind of Faith to be the stuff of my life, to believe with all my heart although the world will not stay still, and the spirit (even my own) won’t stay put either, but blows like the canyon winds through the wild places. I want to believe although sand shifts, rocks crack, hearts break, heroes fail, friends fall.

      “I want to believe through all of this and more, through sifting shadows and doubt, through light flickering in ragged ribbons across the garment of my life. I want to wear Faith the way a child wears it: close to the skin and in between my toes.”

You can see how far I have come in Christ since the 1990’s! Yet this image of the child running in the Canyon de Chelly [pronounced Shay] presents a wonderful picture of openness, innocence, and abandonment. After rereading this recently, I find myself praying: “O My God, I’m running to You in the Canyon de Chelly!”

As I get older, I realize just how amazing this posture is.  I have to watch where I put my feet.  I can’t trust them.  I could stumble over something, especially on uneven terrain.  I could step into a depression and fall, so I dare not run.  I am guarded.  I can’t fully open up.  Perhaps this is why Jesus told us,  “Unless you turn and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  A child is HEEDLESS, completely unmindful, running wide open; so this little poem of Scott Momoday will always be, for me, the picture of faith, the posture of faith.

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Touching the Holy Spirit – part 2

[If you are just now entering this site, see “Touching the Holy Spirit – Part 1”– “How can we become intimate with the Holy Spirit? I want to touch and enter into the Holy Spirit in the same intimate way that I have touched the Sacred Heart and entered the Heart of the Father. “ [https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/touching-the-holy-spirit-part-1/]

Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez was Venerable Conchita’s spiritual director. Entering his book, True Devotion to the Holy Spirit, I read: “Our love for the Father tends to glorify Him; our love for the Son, to transform ourselves into Him; our love for the Holy Spirit to let ourselves be possessed and moved by Him. However, earlier, we also read in Conchita’s Diary that Jesus told her “If you invoke the Father, if you love Him, it is through the Holy Spirit. If you love Me ardently, if you know Me, if you serve Me, if you imitate Me, if you make yourself but one with My wishes and with My heart, it is through the Holy Spirit” [Diary, Jan. 26, 1915].

It’s clear that we cannot transform ourselves into Christ–not unless we open ourselves to being wholly possessed by the Holy Spirit, our delightful Guest. As we saw earlier, the Holy Spirit transforms us into Christ that we may go the Father.

I concluded “Touching the Holy Spirit, part 1” with the following: “We will next explore the theological virtues which enable us to TOUCH God.” We can’t begin to touch God, to touch the Holy Spirit without the theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity. The Catholic Catechism tells us:

1812 The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man’s faculties for participation in the divine nature: for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.

1813 The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.

The cardinal virtues, the moral virtues, are based on human strength and effort. For example, I have to work on the virtue of patience with great diligence; I can fail, fall, lose ground, or grow in this virtue throughout my human life. However, the theological virtues are infused into our souls with baptism, the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. Without them, we cannot “touch” God. We have nothing. Holiness is a matter of growing in the theological virtues, which enables us to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit enters in with His gifts—which complete the moral virtues.

While reflecting on faith this week, TouchingtheHemofJesuscontemporaryI was moved by the story of the woman with the issue of blood [Luke 8:43-48]. Do you remember what she said to herself, “If I can just reach out and touch the hem of His garment…” Jesus later told her, “Your faith has saved you.” This is faith: even in our confusion, our darkness, our fear—to reach out, to seek to touch Him.

Peter Kreeft tells us something which helped me to understand faith better: “Faith is more active than reason. Reason passively reports data, like a camera. Faith takes a stand, like an army. Faith leaps into God’s arms, answering his proposal of spiritual marriage.”

This is the leap of faith. Leaping into the darkness and believing that God Himself will catch us. That He is there. Faith is the virtue which we need in time; vision will remove the need for faith. In faith we live in the Holy Spirit; His gifts complete the cardinal virtues. The gifts do not depend on our human strengths, but on God Himself.

Hope takes us through time into eternity. Not only does our faith reach out to touch Him, but our desire reaches past time into eternity. Venerable Conchita assures us: “The virtue of supernatural and perfect hope consists in yearning constantly for the possession of the Beloved, not for itself but for the glory of God, working efficaciously to obtain it, choosing and embracing the way of the Cross.”

Finally, the theological virtue of love. How can we begin to express how charity enables us to touch God? the Holy Spirit… I know of no better explanation than that of the author of the old Catholic classic, The Cloud of Unknowing:
“For if, in this life, you hope to feel and see God as he is in himself it must be within this darkness and this cloud…. For the intellect of both men and angels is too small to comprehend God as he is in himself.” [48-49,50] “Thought cannot comprehend God. Though we cannot know him, we can love him. By love he may be touched and embraced, never by thought. Let your loving desire, gracious and devout, step bravely and joyfully beyond [the cloud] and reach out to pierce the darkness above. Yes, beat upon that thick cloud of unknowing with the dart of your loving desire and do not cease come what may.” [54-55] “Learn to be continually occupied in the blind, reverent, joyful longing of contemplative love….” [110]

Archbishop Martinez explains: “Love brings recollection and silence to the soul…. Love brings solitude and recollection, because it concentrates all its activity and desire on the beloved. The Holy Spirit frequently speaks to souls, breathes on them, and inspires them….One of the characteristics, then, that love for the Holy Spirit should have is this solicitous attention to the sound of His voice, to His inspirations, to His most delicate touches….But it is not enough to hear; the divine language must be understood….Therefore, the things of the Spirit have a spiritual and secret sense that not everyone perceives. To know divine things, the soul has to be pure, and in proportion to its purity, it judges spiritual things and penetrates inspirations. Such purity is produced by love and wondrously brought to perfection by it, for purity considered negatively is withdrawal from earthly things, while, under its positive aspect, it is deification; and love deifies by uniting the soul to God. “

With all of this, I still don’t feel I have reached the end of this meditation. How can we reach the absolute fullness, the end of faith? If it is faith which enables me to touch God, faith which is, at best, a leap, what a leap we have to make! No matter how deep in faith, hope, love we grow, we are abysses away from apprehending God. What grows is our thirst, our desire as we long for God to touch us.

How great is His mercy and tenderness for us. To enable us the touch Him, He became flesh, descending into the womb of a young girl who dared to say, “Yes. Let it be done to me according to Your Word.” For this He said, “This is my Body. This is my Blood.” That we might touch. That we might be One. As Ralph Martin so aptly puts it, “The Fulfilment of All Desire.”

See also  Soul Food Talk # 11 – The Theological Virtues

Also:  Soul Food Talk # 9 – The Holy Spirit & His Gifts

PRAYER

O Holy Spirit,
enlighten my mind,
inflame my heart,
strengthen my will
always to reach out to touch You.

I focus all my poor strength of will
in faith, hope, and love—
to beat on that cloud of unknowing,
despite my confusion, my fear, my blindness.

I may not understand You in all your Purity and Holiness,
but all my desire and longing are to be One with You
according to Your Holy Will
through the Immaculate Heart of my Mother, Mary.

Through Your awesome power
transform me into Jesus
for the glory of the Father.
AMEN