Monday, April 30, 2012

If Faith Is A Gift From God, Why Don't We All Have It?

This was a question posed to me yesterday by a dear friend who is an agnostic.  We had a running email conversation over the weekend about what she believes (basically the tenets of the Humanist Manifesto) and my thoughts on those beliefs.  She says belief in God is something that "rings true" for you or it doesn't.  If God loves everyone, and we're all equally worthy (which is not at all), why doesn't everyone have the gift of faith?

We discussed that all of humanity can be put into one of four groups:
1.  Motivated to do good.  Believe in God.  (Me)
2.  Motivated to do good.  Do not believe in God. (Her)
3.  Not motivated to do good.  Believe in God.  (Questionable belief, if it doesn't translate into action)
4.  Not motivated to do good.  Do not believe in God.

All in all, our lives look very similar from the outside.  We are both motivated to do good to our neighbor, live mindfully, compassionately, etc...  These are the things that bind us in friendship.  How is it that I have this gift of faith and she does not?  Am I more worthy or deserving than she?  No.  A resounding NO.  Then, what could possibly explain this glaring discrepancy in our lives?

I believe life ceased to be fair when God gave us free will, which is a necessary condition for love.  As soon as He allowed us to make our own choices, other people were necessarily impacted by those choices.  If we are born into a long line of people who have said "No" to God and life in Him, we are going to have to acquire (receive) the gift of faith from somewhere other than the people God intended (our parents).  Is this ideal or does it please God that some people have the gift dropped in their lap and some have to work incredibly hard to find it?  No.  However, He knows that those who labor intensely find the reward much sweeter.  They have a much greater appreciation for it, as they have not had it all along.  Those who have always had it, risk not appreciating it.  They risk being the lukewarm that God spits out of His mouth.  This is the greatest travesty of all - to know He exists, but to be remain indifferent.  (This is why so many people struggle with Christianity - They know we believe in God, but they can't see that it makes any difference in our life).  God can use a life of belief and a life of unbelief equally well and to the same end.  He wants everybody to receive the gift.  He gave His only Son so we could more readily recognize the gift of faith and receive it.   

For me, accepting the gift of faith was simple.  My parents gave it to me.  They beautifully wrapped up this gift for me in their unconditional love, faithful attendance at Mass, and their devotion.  They helped me unwrap it when they presented me for Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation.  Further, when they paid for me to join millions of other kids to see the Pope and experience the unity of our faith at World Youth Day - in Colorado and France.   They have "bathed" me in grace with their prayers and intercession since I entered this world.  This is the way God intended it.

The upside is that if you weren't born into the faith, or have anyone spoon-feeding you through your youth, or paving the way for you, God can redeem the shortcomings of those who should have done it.  They probably suffered from the same "transmission" problem.  They didn't get it from their parents.  He is calling all of us to Himself, continually.  We have many, many, many chances as long as we remain open to Him and what He speaks into our hearts.

As Jesus promised the thief on the Cross, "This day you will be with Me in paradise", we are promised that as long as we have life within us, it is never to late to say "yes" to Him.  Our life on earth is but a fleeting moment compared with life in eternity.  Ultimately, if we believe in Jesus Christ and His divine Sonship on our last day, how many days you believed before that simply no longer matters.

Dear God, Thank you for the gift of faith.  Thank you for parents who have given it to their children.  Thank you for loving us.  Lord, please bestow many graces on those who did not receive the gift of faith from their parents, as you intended.  Lord, please bless them superabundantly.  Where they were slighted, Lord, let us, the Body of Christ, intercede for them.  Please accept our prayers on their behalf.  Please help us to show them Your love that they may believe in You.  Amen. 


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