Part 3 – Faith: Our Response to God’s Love
In Parts 1-2 of “The Purpose of Man’s Existence,” we acknowledged that God created us for the purpose of sharing in eternal communion in Him in heaven. Such a meaning and purpose in life is known by us through God’s own self-revelation – as is revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition, and is handed down by the Church’s teaching Magisterium. This sharing of eternal communion, however, is only received by us when we rightly open ourselves to accepting it and embracing it by responding to what God has revealed and offered to us. This “responding” to God is what we call “faith,” and will be the subject of this third and final part of considering our purpose for existing.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC) faith is explained as both a gift of God and as a human act. Insofar as God places within us a desire for He Himself and for the fullness of life in Him, we receive the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit as an “infused” virtue, whereby the Holy Spirit freely enters into our hearts that are open and desire such a gift. As a gift from God, faith has potential to always grow stronger and toward greater perfection. Such a gift of faith from God is the foundation of the human “act of faith.”
As for the human act, there are several key characteristics. First of all, faith is understood as a free assent or acceptance of what God has revealed. In Part 2, recall that God freely wills to make Himself known to us in revelation. Our capacity to receive God (and the Truth) comes by way of our act of faith, as a freely given assent and surrender of our minds and wills to Him and to what He has revealed – accepting that He is Truth. This act of faith is necessary for our salvation – as after hearing God’s revelation, it is only by such a complete and free assent to God and His saving works that we can rightly receive them and participate in what is promised. If this assent were forced, we would be as slaves of God and incapable of love (for true love is a choice, not merely a feeling). Finally, faith is more than a mental acceptance of God; it is a giving of ourselves to a way of life of love – a love by which and for which we were made.
At this point, it is also necessary to state plainly that there is no conflict between faith and reason; that is, between revealed truth and natural or scientific truth – as God is the source of both (CCC 159). Likewise, all that is revealed by God and accepted in faith, even if we cannot fully comprehend it, increases what we can know by natural reasoning. This declaration about the complementarity of faith and natural truth is especially important for us to note as we move deeper into topics that require our act of faith – or full assent to what God Himself has revealed. To live the fullness of the Catholic life is only possible through this act of faith in what God has revealed, noting that never does such faith contradict science – it only enhances it. For such faith surrenders our minds and wills to the power of God and His love for us, placing all our reliance and trust solely in Him.
Therefore, prior to our entrance into the next topic of Basics of Catholicism, it is proper that we declare that what is to be covered has to do with “supernatural” faith – or faith that assents to God’s revelation and is above and complementary to natural reason. It is an assent that is founded upon and aided by the Holy Spirit in those who desire it; it is likewise an assent that is freely given; and as we will see, it is this faith that brings salvation.
For further reading: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 142-197, gives full treatment to the subject of faith as our fitting response to God’s love for us