There seems to be two sides to faith, as if faith was a coin that has been handed to us.
One side of the “coin of faith” looks externally, that is, it looks outside of ourselves to others who have modeled and lived faith for us. It is in accepting their testimony that helps us to believe.
If we look beyond those that have had an immediate influence on us, we will see that other people have influenced them. And if we look still further, others have influenced those people too. In a very few steps, we can begin to see a whole network of influence, a web of belief, all based on the testimony of others. If we follow this web of belief, this chain of testimony back to its origin, it leads us to the Apostles, the First Witnesses to Jesus.
The Apostles were a group of uneducated men that followed Jesus for the last two or three years of His life. They lived and traveled closely with Him. They witnessed their friend tortured and killed. They themselves went into hiding for nearly two months after His crucifixion. They could have easily gone back to their former lives, but instead, they began spreading the Good News about Jesus. They faced hardships and risked their own lives to do it, at no personal gain for themselves. In fact, tradition says that all but one of them eventually met horrible and painful deaths. And the Message continued to spread. Something had to have happened immediately after the death of Jesus. Something very special had to have happened to motivate and energize those men to do what they did. I do not think they risked their lives for just an idea or a philosophy. There had to be more, much more to it.
It is not a coincidence that the Bible is divided into two sections called “Testaments”. At some point, one has to decide whether to believe what they have said, or not.
The other side of the coin of faith looks internally, that is, it looks within to our own personal experiences with God. These experiences help us say internally, within our hearts, “I believe.”
Evelyn Underhill says it well:
We see in this muddled world a constant struggle for Truth, Goodness, Perfection; and all those who give themselves to that struggle—the struggle for the redemption of the world from greed, cruelty, injustice, selfish desire and their results—find themselves supported and reinforced by a spiritual power which enhances life, strengthens will, and purifies character. And they come to recognise more and more in the power the action of God. These facts are as real as the other facts…
In other words, each of us who believe, who have opened ourselves to the possibility of God, can identify certain moments in our lives where we have experienced something that is not of ourselves. A few of us can identify a big, life-changing moment. Most of us probably better identify with small moments, almost insignificant in their appearance, but still powerful, transformative, and energizing.
It would be inappropriate for us to claim that one side of the coin of faith is more important than the other. At times, it will seem that we “rub” one side of our coin more than the other, that we feel more depended upon, or prefer one side of the coin. But both sides of the coin of faith are needed, and without “rubbing” both sides, the importance of the coin for us will not be balanced, will not increase.
The coin of faith is given to each of us. It is a gift from God. It is up to us either to accept this coin, or refuse it. This coin is so precious that it is something far too expensive for us mere humans to obtain for ourselves. The value of our coins of faith have been paid in full by Jesus, in the Sacrifice at The Cross, the Body broken for us, the Blood shed for us.
At the beginning of our journey home to God, we have been handed a coin of faith. It has been our task to carry this coin in our hearts. Rubbing it in times of need, times of doubt, in bad times and good. Our times of sorrow polish it to a high luster. Our times of joy allow us to bask in gratitude the reflection of Jesus in its shine, and radiate it to others around us, to make God present in the world.
At the end of our journey, when the waiting is over and God finally brings us home again, we will have to hand our coin of faith back to Jesus. It was never really ours to begin with. It won’t matter then any how, because we’ll be home. We’ll be home in the House of Love.
Thank you Father for your gift of faith. Please do not let us take it for granted. Help us be good stewards of your gift, a gift that was paid with the most precious Blood of Your only Son, our Brother. We love You.