I became a ministerial priest over 1 ½ years ago. Every now and again, as the days seem to fly by, my heart will occasionally stop for periods of pondering. In those moments of pondering, I think about my life’s journey. In particular, what brought me to where I am at. As a Church, we are now in the second week of Advent. The candle of faith is burning brightly in our places of worship. Our hearts not only have the light of hope, but now that of faith. Over this past week my mind and heart were stewing heavily upon the gift of faith within my life. It was the Holy Spirit, who got me into a catholic parish (story here). Why did I stay? Because, of the Spirit filled people within the parish. My experience with those people at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Marquette, MI, gave flesh to the gift of faith that resided within my heart. A gift I received at the moment of my baptism. Yet, a gift that remained unopened until I meet those people.
At every Sunday Mass the Church, in one voice, professes her faith. The Creed spoken under the pronoun ‘I’ places the Church on a firm foundation to know Christ, her Bridegroom. Our Creed allows us to look at our faith. By looking at our faith we begin to understand who our God is. Even though our minds can never obtain an exhaustive knowledge about who are God is, He does make Himself knowable. Recall, Christ‘s prayer to the Father in John 17. Christ prayed “now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn. 17:3). Within that prayer Christ reveals to us the gift that comes from knowing God. The gift of eternal life. Yet, we are also a people called to walk by faith (2nd Cor. 5:7). Our faith, which comes to each heart as a gift, is not merely relegated to the mind as an academic project where God is the subject. Faith is meant to be lived out within the world by each disciple (Gal. 2:20).
St. Paul tells us that Christ comes to dwell in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17). Since, the gift of faith makes God know to our mind and makes the heart into His dwelling, the disciple has now become a pilgrim within themselves. This pilgrimage is between the head and the heart. The distance between the two is the longest journey any Christian will ever undergo. That is why this journey calls a Christian to not only look at their faith but also to look along it. This perspective of looking along faith is where the gift of faith becomes enfleshed. Enfleshed faith is the gift of faith lived out within the world over time (an insight given in Heb. 11). How did those parishioners get me to open the gift of faith in my heart? They gave me their lives. Each week a family from the parish would bring a home cooked meal to the catholic student center. During and after the meal they would share their story of faith. They offered up their lives to show me their hearts’ movements, in faith, that brought them to life in Christ. Through their stories, I began to see along the gift of faith. Faith unfolded over time. Faith that is not locked away in the recesses of the mind as an abstraction but faith that brings about a new way of life that is lived within the world. By that perspective, made known by those people, my heart began to see that I can have a Christian life. A life made known to me during those conversations. Faith, not only of ideas, but faith that gives the life of Christ to a heart.
It is in the life of faith enfleshed where the necessity of Romans 10:17 becomes fully realized. Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. God gives the gift of faith, because God is the focus of faith. Yet, a question remains: How are we to open and use God’s gift of faith? First, it is important to note that the sacramental life plays a foundational role for the transmission of faith. God gives Himself to us in, by, and through the sacraments. Via the sacraments, God has made for Himself, a people. Within the people of God, we help each other as siblings, because of our shared sacramental lives. Thus, personal experiences in and with faith flesh out the reality of faith within the world. Through shared experiences of faith a person can begin to see faith as a gift that is meant to be incarnated within their heart. Thus, to open the gift of faith a person must offer their flesh to it. This giving of flesh, to the gift of faith is a calling for each disciple.
It is in this offering of flesh that we begin to see the importance of the Advent season. Advent is a season of and for the enfleshing of faith. She, the Church, is given through the scriptures, by the Holy Spirit, the perspective of looking along salvation history to see the enfleshment of God’s gift of faith within His people over time. Finally, thanks to the grand Fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary the enfleshment of faith was fully realized by the conception and birth of the child Jesus. May each of us, with the gift of faith, continue to enflesh that faith making it visible to all people the Father sends to us throughout our journey within this world during the Advent season.
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. ~ Hebrews 13:7