Last week, I had a fascinating conversation with a Jewish man who married a Catholic woman with whom I’m friends. They have two kids who are in their early teens and have been raised Catholic. It was very intriguing to hear him speak about the Catholic faith because he has read and discussed much about it. I said to him a few times that he knows more than most Catholics! He knows the teachings and seems open to believing, but is more skeptical and doubtful about it all right now.
During our brief chat, he raised questions about the Mass – why do we confess sin in the beginning of Mass, why do we bring money up to the altar in the middle of Mass, and how can transubstantiation actually occur. I didn’t give too many answers because we were at a party and it was more of a casual setting. And, I was simply marveling at his questions!
A question with a question
You could say that I attempted to answer his last question with a question. I asked him about his kids, and if they believe in transubstantiation (i.e., the bread and wine change substances into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Consecration during Holy Mass) because they are both so learned about the Catholic faith and discuss it regularly. He said that his son believes wholeheartedly, probably because of his devout Catholic grandparents. His daughter, however, is more skeptical, probably taking after her father. I thought to myself that that is fine – if the teaching on the Eucharist has reached the ears of these teens (and their Jewish father), then the seed has been planted and it will ultimately bear fruit. The problem usually is that people don’t hear the teaching. “Whoever hears the truth, hears my voice” (Jn 18:37).
I walked away from the conversation realizing, yet again, that faith is a gift. In today’s Gospel, the Apostles say to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Lk 17:5). They recognize that He is the source of faith in each of them. He is the source of faith in each of us. Just like He is the giver of life, He is the giver of faith. We did nothing to earn the gift of life; so, too, we did nothing to earn the gift of faith at Baptism. And, I truly believe that just as God offers life to every human being, He offers the gift of faith to every human being. The question is, will each person use the gift? Will each of us ask the Lord in our own way – whether in word like the Apostles or in deed like receiving the Eucharist at Mass – to increase our faith.
Our faith at Baptism is like the size of the mustard seed which is mentioned by the Lord in this Gospel as well. God’s Grace helps the tiny faith of the baptized person to grow mainly through the sacraments, much like the Lord mentions in Mark 4: “it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches” (v.32).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that faith is a gift and a human act:
When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood,’ but from “my Father who is in heaven.”
Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him.
…believing is an authentically human act…In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” (Paragraphs 153-155).
I will pray that God will infuse the gift of Christian faith in my Jewish friend, and that he will cooperate with grace by assenting to the truth. I will keep praying that this continues to happen with all of us, and that the Lord will increase our faith.
May you know the peace of Christ,