Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Trust in Christ

Recently, a blogger wrote a deep couple of questions: "My question is how does totally surrender to God really letting go? I know its all about faith but how do we build that and not have it shatter in our face the moment something goes wrong? Please answer this-this is really important for my spiritual life."

Regarding total surrender to God, please keep in mind what Jesus says about giving up everything for God and his kingdom. For example, he tells the parable of the person who finds a great treasure (which represents the kingdom of heaven) buried in a field, and "out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field" (Mt 13:44). While it is not always easy, it should bring us great joy to give up everything for the kingdom of God. It the greatest treasure on earth.

We don't build up our own faith; Christ does. He nourishes faith through us. Again using a parable, we look at the mustard seed (Mt 13:31-32). The mustard seed cannot grow on its own. With the help of water, the Sun, and air, it "becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the sky come to dwell on its branches'". Our faith cannot grow on its own. With the help of the water of Baptism, the Body and Blood of the Son, and the air of the Holy Spirit, our faith can grow large enough to move mountains (see Mt 21:21).

With this in mind, then, I would suggest three ways** to allow Christ to build up your faith:

1) Open yourself to his Grace
Our job as believers is to be open to Christ and his Grace. If we remain open, he will give us faith that won't shatter when times get tough. He will bring us closer to Himself, the Prince of Peace. He is the One we need when life gets rough. His Grace will get us through whatever curveballs life throws us: "if God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31).

2) Frequent the sacraments
The sacraments are where we receive Sanctifying Grace (the life of God dwelling within us)...where we receive faith. Faith is given in Baptism, nourished by the Eucharist, sealed in Confirmation, restored in Confession, etc. Daily Mass (whenever possible) and monthly Confession are highly recommended for those who wish to go deeper in their relationship with Christ.

3) Pray your tail off
Talk every day to Christ, preferably in his Real Presence in the Eucharist (in a Church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament dwells). Read Scripture every day (one chapter of the Gospel a night works for many folks), pray the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, etc. Just as a disciplined athlete exercises every day, so we should work out every day spiritually (see 1 Cor 9:24-27).

Finally, to be a real believer is to trust in Christ. "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust" (Mk 5:36). If I totally surrender to Christ, I give him my life...I give him my love...my problems...my fears... my worries. "Do not worry about your life...your Father knows (the things) that you need" (Lk 12:22,30).
** Are there other ways that Christ builds up our faith?
Other Scriptural passages/quotes that speak of this?


At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One scripture passage that I find helpful is Jeremiah 29:11-14. I reminds me that God loves me & that He has a plan for me. And somehow knowing that God has a plan for me is a source of great consolation when I feel like I'm struggling. Hopefully it might help others too.

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find ME WITH YOU, says the Lord, and I will change your lot."

It's also an awesome reminder of the Lord's faithfulness to us -- if we seek Him, He will reveal himself to us and teach us that He is WITH US always.

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Dan said...

I've always had great sympathy for the Hebrew people of the Bible. It seems unfair that they had to live under the onerus law, very unsure of their salvation (since I guess only the rich could afford to buy the tassels or what not, which is why they were so astonished when Jesus said that it is difficult for the rich to enter Heaven).

I guess I have trouble with this because I wonder why they had to live with so much more anxiety than we do (since we have Confession and the forgiveness of Christ).

At 3:49 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Dan, thanks for your comments. I've asked our seminarian, Dan, to address the points you raise (his comments are below). He is fresh from his studies of the Hebrew people of the Old Testament. He paints a different picture which may shed new light on the beliefs and practices of our ancestors in faith.

In general terms, if they lived their lives doing God's Will in anticipation of the Christ, we believe that they now rest for all eternity in His kingdom, thanks to the merits of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross. That should bring you and all of us comfort!
First off, what sort of salvation were the Israelites concerned about? For most the period covered by the Old Testament, there was no firm belief in an afterlife: instead, some sort of shadowy near-non-existence, in some nether-world (down below), is a common picture. There was no belief of everlasting reward in heaven or punishment in hell, so the Israelites were not worrying about salvation in that sense. It is not until those OT books written latest (such as Daniel, 2 Maccabees, and Wisdom) that we see a sense developing of resurrection, personal immortality, and reward/punishment for earthly deeds; and all of this was still much debated in the time of Jesus and the apostles, as we see whenever they encounter the Sadducees (who denied any resurrection). (Why did God not reveal this clearly earlier? Perhaps, I have heard it suggested, to make sure the people didn't get mixed up with Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife and their gods.) The salvation Israelites sought was generally salvation from death at the hands of enemies or wild animals or disease, or from defeat and oppression by another country or other enemies.

They were, of course, concerned that God would bring earthly punishment upon them or their descendants because of their sins; and they were able to take care of this through offering sacrifices. Some sacrifices were for thanksgiving, or giving firstfruits, or sharing a communal meal with God; but some were for restoring ritual purity or making reparation for sin/guilt (Lev 4-5). These involved sprinkling the blood of the animal and burning up all parts of its body. On one day of the year -- Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement -- the high priest would atone for the sins of the people by killing a bull and one goat and sprinkling their blood, and sending a second goat into the wilderness. "Laying both hands on its head, he shall confess over it all the sinful faults and transgressions of the Israelites, and so put them on the goat's head. He shall then have it led into the desert by an attendant. Since the goat is to carry off their iniquities to an isolated region, it must be sent away into the desert" (Lev 16:21-22).

All of this was a "shadow" of the perfect sacrifice of himself that Christ the perfect high priest would offer to the Father. Through his shed blood is the grace of all the sacraments! It is a transformation of the First Covenant, taking it to such a higher level that one should never be tempted to go back (as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews argues). And yet, I think that the Israelites who tried to follow God's Law were able to trust in the means of atonement that were offered to them. In the Psalms and elsewhere we find expressions of sorrow for sins, and of being cleansed of them, that we still use today. Every Friday morning, our Morning Prayer begins with Psalm 51: "Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. … Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow. … A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit." (vv. 3, 9, 12)

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Dan said...

Thanks very much for your response. Having Q&A like this is a wonderful resource.


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