Editor’s note: This article is part 19 of a series, “The Kingdom of Grace.” Part 18 can be found here.
“Repent and believe in the gospel,” said the Lord Jesus, and in so doing he called us to walk the pathways of metanoia. He called us to walk in the spirit of faith from the beginning, through the middle, to the end.
A previous article – The Light of Grace – explained how faith is a special and supernatural light streaming into the depths of our minds from God. Faith is an amazing ability, a fixed and stable tendency of the heart, to believe in all that God has revealed. The revelation of God is given to us in Scripture and tradition, and holy mother Church interprets it for us in her various teachings. By faith we believe in all of it even though much of it surpasses our sight.
What God has revealed to us is himself, his purpose in creating us, and his plan to save the world in Jesus Christ. God’s purpose is for us to receive and to grow into all the riches of divine grace: to share in the supernatural and divine life of God, to be his personal friends, to bear his Name in our hearts, to pray the filial prayer of Jesus Christ, indeed, to be Jesus Christ by grace, to live something of his eternal Sonship in God, to relate to his Father as our Father, for our hearts to be the temple of the Trinity, in short, for us to be divinized by grace. All such things are mysteries of faith taking place within us by grace. The testimony of the prophets and apostles set the mysteries before us, and by the light of faith we believe in all of them.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Many signs and wonders confirm that the testimony of the prophets and apostles really is the Word of God, but we do not believe because of rational reflection on all of the confirmatory signs. Rather, we believe because the instinct of the Holy Spirit inwardly moves us to affirm all the mysteries of faith in simplicity and trust. The Spirit also lights up the mysteries for us through his gifts of understanding and knowledge, and through his gift of wisdom he gives us an interior taste of the good things that have come (Heb. 9:11).
Though the mysteries of grace are invisible to us, and call for faith, the life of faith normally also brings with it an experience all its own – many lights, insights, and a sweet savor of the Word in our hearts – thanks to the influence of the Spirit dwelling in us.
When someone is baptized, all such riches of divine grace come to the soul, but usually the person is more or less unaware of it. Infants are surely altogether unaware of it, but even adults who seek baptism have only an initial and catechetical understanding of such matters. Though the renewal and transformation of our minds by the light of grace has begun in our baptism, our consciousness of living the Life given to us by grace is often rather dim. So, the Lord calls us to wake up, become aware, and live the supernatural and divine Life by grace with increasingly greater consciousness. Such is the purpose of walking the pathways of metanoia. The first step is to believe in God’s revelation of his exalted purposes for us and to believe in the magnitude of the gift given to us in our baptism. Only those who believe in God’s revelation, and walk by the light of faith, will receive the opening of the eyes of their heart and the renewal of their contemplative gaze upon God dwelling in their hearts by grace and shining out all around us.
Practically speaking, the important thing is to use your faith. There comes a point in the development of children when they have learned to speak a little bit, but are still rather prone to fall back on preverbal ways of calling out for help. When something bad happens, even though the child can talk, he or she will revert to screaming, crying, kicking, and other such things. Seeking to help their child in distress, parents often say “use your words.” The parents remind the child he or she has another way of acting and communicating now, another way of obtaining help, by using words.
Similarly, in our baptism you and I have been given the light of faith. We have another way now of looking upon God and all the things going on in our lives. Somewhere in the depths of our souls, we have faith in the good God who loves us and orders all things well. Yet, in the middle of daily life, our tendency is not to read the world by the light of God. It is all too easy and all too common for us to fall back on the old Adam’s ways of looking at everything. We tend to walk by sight, not by faith, and God seems removed from it all. When troubles and trials come our way, it can be particularly difficult to understand what God is doing. In our everyday life, and especially in the midst of affliction, we are like children who have learned to speak somewhat but do not use their words. Though the light of faith irradiates our minds, we tend not use our faith, but instead we unconsciously default to looking at everything from the point of view of a fallen and faithless mind – especially the evils and afflictions in our lives.
As a result, fear can often reign in our hearts. So, too, does shame, disappointment, discouragement, and a thousand other disturbing feelings. Patterns of sin, a serious illness, crushing marital problems, children who struggle, financial problems, loneliness, and a thousand other struggles fill our lives and our world. Sometimes our struggles are with a more generalized malaise about the state of the world, the state of the Church, or the state of our whole life. In the midst of it all, the enemy hurls many fiery darts against us – dark and disturbing thoughts – that lead to one conclusion. God is not really that good, and he is not working all things together for the good of those who love him.
The only remedy is to use your faith – deliberately. Faith is a shield against all the fiery darts of the enemy (Eph. 6:16), but to use the shield requires us actually to look at things in the light of God. It requires us to remember God, his eternal designs of Wisdom and Love, his ever-present help, and the saving work of his Son Jesus Christ. The practical question is how to use your faith. How do you and I learn to look at everything in light of God, day in and day out, through thick and thin?
To be continued…
Image courtesy of Unsplash.
Father James Dominic Brent, O.P. is a Dominican Friar who lives and teaches at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. Several of his homilies, spiritual conferences, interviews, and radio spots can be found on his personal Soundcloud site. He frequently lectures for the Thomistic Institute and appears on Aquinas 101.