When we celebrate a major milestone like a wedding or anniversary, it’s common to send out a series of invitations. These usually include instructions on how to RSVP to the event. “RSVP” comes from the French term respondez s’il vous plait, which means “please respond.” While in the past you might find an RSVP card with a return envelope in this sort of invitation, today it’s more common to have someone respond digitally (by email or filling out a form on a website). If you receive such an invitation, you are expected to make some sort of a response – even if you are declining or unable to attend.
In our first few posts about YouCat (Youth Catechism), we saw that we have been created to exist in relationship with God, that He’s given us the ability to hear His voice, and He makes the first step towards us. The question is, how do we answer? Our RSVP to God’s invitation is what we call faith:
“In many ways God seeks contact with us. In every human encounter, in every moving experience of nature, in every apparent coincidence, in very challenge, every suffering, there is a hidden message from God to us… He addresses us as friends. Therefore we, too, should respond as friends and believe Him, trust Him completely, learn to understand Him better and better, and accept His will without reservation.“ -YouCat 20
It may seem intimidating to put yourself into someone else’s hands, but when you think about it, there are all sorts of situations where we entrust ourselves to another person. We do this every time we get into a vehicle someone else is driving. We do it whenever we eat a meal that someone else has prepared. We also do it when we ask a doctor or dentist to care for whatever might ail us. We trust these people because we believe that they are deserving of this trust and would not intentionally do us harm. Skydivers take this a step further. They literally entrust their lives to the person who packed their parachute. They trust that this person knew what they were doing and packed it properly, and that when they leap out of an airplane it will open in the way it was designed to.
Faith in God asks the same thing of us- that we take a ‘leap’ and come to know and trust in God’s desire for our good. God has revealed Himself in a way that deserves all our trust, as we hear that God has a plan for us: “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) and Jesus tells us “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10.) When we believe what God says to us and trust Him, we are making forward progress in our faith. With that in mind, we read that faith has the following seven characteristics (see YouCat 21):
- Faith is a sheer gift of God (grace): Basically, that we don’t initiate our relationship with God, that He is the one who initiates it. In fact, without the Holy Spirit’s help, we wouldn’t be able to recognize God’s invitation or respond to it.
- Faith is the supernatural power that is absolutely necessary if we are to attain salvation: we need faith to get to Heaven both because it’s a gift we can’t attain on our own strength, but also because God won’t force us to do anything (even be with Him for eternity.)
- Faith requires free will and clear understanding: basically, God’s not a lawyer. He’s not looking to save or condemn based on technicalities, but He desires to work in our hearts. The parallel in human relationships is married love: we consider a marriage to be invalid if one of the two spouses didn’t understand what they were getting themselves into as they professed their vows.
- Faith is absolutely certain, because Jesus guarantees it: more than just believing in His goodness, we trust that God will act as He always has, looking out for our good. We believe in the promises He makes and trust Him to keep them.
- Faith is incomplete unless it leads to active love. We read in the New Testament that “…faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead… by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:17-18). St. Teresa of Calcutta was a wonderful example of this of this, daily going from her knees to the streets of one of the poorest cities of the world loving Christ in the ‘poorest of the poor.’
- Faith grows when we listen more and more to God’s Word and enter a lively exchange with Him. Just like any relationship of love, with time and effort love grows- just look at a couple who has been married for 30, 40, or 50 years. The sacrifices and listening which they have shared by nature help their love to grow deeper and deeper.
- Faith gives us even now a foretaste of the joy of Heaven. Responding to the love of God can, at times, be difficult. But entering any relationship of love places demands on the lover and the beloved. G.K. Chesterton said that “Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.” When you bind yourself to another in love (and they bind themselves to you), you find that there are struggles. But you also find a joy and a security in knowing you are loved, which is one of the ways we can taste what Heaven will be like.
What all of this points to is the idea that our faith is God is all about a relationship with Him. This relationship really begins to grow when we recognize the invitation God has sent us and we choose to RSVP, saying with our words and our lives: Jesus, I love you, and I want to entrust this life to you.
-This is the sixth in a series on the Youth Catechism. Mike Landry is Catholic Youth Camps director for the Archdiocese of Edmonton. He is also chaplain for Evergreen Catholic Schools, serving 10 schools west of Edmonton. Mike and his wife Jennifer live in Stony Plain with their five children.