BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (26) – How do we respond?

– Rev José Mario O Mandía

When someone introduces himself to us, how do we respond? The polite thing to do is to acknowledge his presence, perhaps shake his hands, and say, “Hello.”

Through Revelation (which we find in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition), God introduces himself to us. Through supernatural faith, we acknowledge his presence, we respond to him.

HUMAN FAITH

In Bite-Size Philosophy no 3, we have discussed the meaning of faith. We first described what human faith is, and we have seen how important it is for daily life. This is because faith means accepting the word of someone even if we ourselves have not personally witnessed the fact that he is speaking of. We believe what our parents tell us about ourselves, we believe what our teachers teach us, bosses have to believe the reports of their subordinates, businessmen believe the word of their clients and vice versa…. Without human faith, we would not be able to live life to the full, because we would be constantly trying to prove what other people tell us. We would not learn much, if we based our knowledge simply on what we personally observe or what our intellect can discover.

SUPERNATURAL FAITH

It is not only human beings who speak to us. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2). As in the case of human faith, we are free to accept or reject what God has said. Faith is the acceptance of God’s Word, which comes to us through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as preserved and taught by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Point no 25 of the Compendium asks: “How does man respond to God who reveals himself?” And it replies: “Sustained by divine grace, we respond to God with the obedience of faith, which means the full surrender of ourselves to God and the acceptance of his truth insofar as it is guaranteed by the One who is Truth itself.”

What is faith? The word “faith” (Greek pistis, Latin fides) has two meanings, one objective and the other subjective.

Objectively speaking, “faith” refers to the things one believes in. When God speaks to us (Revelation), he tells us facts about himself, about the world, and about ourselves. Faith in the objective sense, refers to these facts (truths).  In this sense, when we say “the Faith,” we are referring to these contents or objects of our belief.

The word “faith,” however, also has a subjective meaning. (By “subjective” we mean that it is found in the subject or the person who believes, not in the truths/facts believed.) In this second sense, it refers to the virtue by which one accepts the truths or realities revealed by God. This is what we are going to discuss here.

In both cases, faith has nothing to do with feelings. Feelings come and go, they rise and they fall.

HUMAN VS. SUPERNATURAL

We can point out two differences between human faith and supernatural faith.

Human faith has to do with information transmitted to us by our parents, teachers, friends, the media and so on. Supernatural faith, on the other hand, is about things God has told us.

Human faith relies on our ability to discern the reliability of the person speaking to us. Supernatural faith also involves human discernment; it also calls for the use of our reason, which, as the Compendium says, is “sustained by divine grace.”

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