Leap of Faith

There is incompleteness about us as human beings. St. Augustine captured that thought in his statement: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.” We are driven toward faith by our awareness of the infinite to which we belong, but which we do not own like a possession. Ultimately, faith is God’s gift to us.

Our restlessness impacts us psychologically as human beings. We need a center to our life outside ourselves, around which our thoughts, feelings and desires can navigate. Faith as our total commitment to God, as our life vision, can act as our center. But it takes a leap of our total personhood to embrace this vision because we are embracing Mystery.

The word “faith” has many meanings─some helpful, some not so helpful. A misinterpretation of faith is to consider it an act of knowledge that has a low degree of evidence, or worse just an emotion. Nor is faith solely trust in a higher power. Unfortunately, faith is often thought of as the contents of faith, as in the Credo that we recite at Mass. A more helpful definition sees faith as a power, as in the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Now let’s focus on theologian Paul Tillich’s rich definition of faith as the concern in life that claims ultimacy for our life. For it is when we leap from faith as the contents of faith to faith as ultimacy in our lives that we experience the depth of faith.

Ultimate Concern. Whether we choose our nation, or our success, or our relationship to God as our ultimate concern, the chosen concern demands that we sacrifice all other concerns such as our time, money, recreation, family, maybe even our life. In Deut 6:5, we are given the commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” This commandment applies to whatever concern we make our ultimate concern, our god.

What is the difference between true and idolatrous faith? In true faith, our ultimate concern is about the truly ultimate. In idolatrous faith, we elevate finite realities to the rank of ultimacy, to the rank of the divine.

What is our god? What is our Christian Vision? We are challenged to worship the true God and commit to the Christian Vision. God asks us for our outright conversion to the Christian Vision as our ultimate concern. For the human heart seeks the ultimacy of the infinite because that is where our hearts will find rest.

Ultimate Benefits. Tillich describes an act of faith “as an act of a finite being who is grasped by and turned to the infinite.” Thus, faith is the state of being ultimately concerned. As such, faith subjects all our other concerns to itself, giving depth, direction and unity to all our other concerns and with them to our whole personality. Faith then is the integrating center of all the elements of our personhood. Faith unites our bodily, our unconscious, our conscious and our spiritual elements. Faith is the centered movement of the whole personality toward something of ultimate meaning and significance. As such faith is a passionate act because it is a matter of infinite passion.

The disrupting forces of our human condition represent great obstacles for our personal and spiritual life. If we lack a unifying center, we are subject to personal and spiritual disintegration. So we must strengthen our faith through constant conversion and spiritual experiences that awaken our consciousness of our ultimate concern.

Faith makes us lovers and doers. As finite beings, we are aware of our separateness from the infinite. Our separateness requires great courage to overcome our very natural doubt. However, faith presupposes our reunion with the infinite. It is love that drives us toward that reunion. And the immediate expression of love is action.