Characteristics of Faith

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified

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To the Beloved Son (151)

For a Christian, believing in God must be joined to a faith in Jesus, who is God's "Beloved Son." Jesus himself commanded, "Believe in God and believe also in me" (Jn 14:1). We believe because Jesus is the "Word made flesh" (Jn 1:14) and "has seen the Father" (Jn 6:46).

And to the Spirit (152)

Only through the Holy Spirit can a person believe in Jesus. "No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). The Spirit is God because "He searches the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10-11). Only God can know God completely.

A Free Gift (153)

Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus said that this knowledge was revealed by "My Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17). Therefore, faith is a free gift from God, which makes it easy to accept and believe the truth.

Intellect Assenting to Truth (154-155)

Faith is also an authentically human act which does not violate man's dignity. In human affairs we trust the word of others (as when a couple exchanges wedding vows). Therefore, man can certainly trust God, with whom he shares an interior communion.

By faith, man's will (aided by God) commands his intellect to assent to a divine truth (St. Thomas Aquinas).

God Supplies Motives (156)

Faith does not result from the truths appearing naturally intelligible but from the authority of God who cannot deceive. Certainly, God supplies external proofs to help our natural powers (such as Christ's miracles and the Church's growth). These motives of credibility show that faith is not "a blind impulse." These external helps aid the Spirit's internal promptings.

Greater than Human Light (157)

Although revealed truths might be obscure, faith is more certain than human knowledge because it is based upon God's Word. "The certainty of divine light is greater than the light of natural reason" (St. Thomas Aquinas). "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt" (Cardinal Newman).

Seeking to Understand (158)

Because "faith seeks understanding," the person should want a more penetrating knowledge of God's Revelation. Paul wants "the eyes of your hearts to be enlightened" (Eph 1:18). The believer should see the totality of God's plan and the union of revealed truths in Christ: "I believe in order to understand, and I understand, the better to believe" (St. Augustine).

Faith and Science (159)

The truths of faith and of science cannot contradict one another because God is the source of all truth. True research done in a scientific manner will never contradict moral laws. Man's persevering investigation of creation is really led by God.

Freely Chosen Yet Required (160-161)

Because God wants man to respond freely, no one can be coerced to believe. Christ bore witness to the truth but never forced people into the kingdom.

Faith in Jesus (and in the Father who sent him) is absolutely required to attain eternal life. The person must persevere in this faith to the end of life. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb 11:6).

Can Be Lost (162)

In order not to lose faith the believer must be nourished by the Word of God. Paul wrote that "Certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Tim 1:18-19). Final perseverance requires a faith "working through charity" (Gal 5:6).

Will Be Tested (163-165)

By faith we can "taste in advance" the joys of seeing God face to face. "It is as if we already possessed the wonderful things our faith assures us of" (St. Basil).

Unfortunately, faith is often tested. During earthly trials, heaven seems far away. When experiences of evil shake our faith, we must "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7).

We must turn especially to Mary who experienced a "night of faith" at the cross.

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