September 27, 2022, 9:00 AM

Franciscan Fractals:

“Belief or Faith?”

     The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:5-10

The Feast of St. Francis is celebrated each year on October 4th. This day of remembrance has proliferated around the world. There are now countless churches of all denominations that observe the wonderful life of St. Francis in some form. Look no further than the relatively recent celebration of the Blessings of the Animals services. Through his humility, St. Francis demonstrated a life lived in faith.

In Luke 17, Jesus shatters our preconceived notions of faith. The disciples had just been told by Jesus that they needed to forgive those who offended them, even if it meant forgiving seven times a day. The disciples then asked Jesus to “increase our faith.” Jesus’ response seems a bit obtuse as he says, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

The disciples had no idea what faith was about or how it begins. Jesus continues his parable by making a point that faith begins with humility. To embrace faith, a person first must admit that they haven’t done a very good job of being thankful, and have also exhibited only minimal effort in making the lives of others better.

For the disciples, faith was like money. If you can increase your position in the world by having more money, then you can certainly increase your position with God by having more faith. Yet, faith is really about losing your position in life all together, and then finding out how to deal with it.

Belief and faith are strongly tied together in our culture. I can say I am going to jump off a step at the church. I believe that I am able to jump, and I also have faith that I can actually do it. My belief is tied up with my faith. If I say that I am going to jump off a 100-foot wall, I may believe that I can do that, and I do not jump because I do not have the faith that I can do it. This is where belief uncouples from faith.

The church for centuries has conflated these two concepts.  The Nicene Creed states a lot of beliefs: “I believe in God the Father…; Jesus Christ…; the Holy Spirit…; the holy catholic church . . .” The assumption is that if a person believes in the words of the creed, then that implies they are a faithful Christian. There is nothing wrong with the beliefs of the church. However, beliefs are not indicative of faith.

Jesus never focused on holding to right beliefs, but instead, promised life by dying-to-self and serving others. Faith is trust in the promise of Jesus.

Prayers and blessings,

Fr. John


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