Sunday of Lent, Year C
First Reading: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18
Second Reading: Phil 3:17-4:1
Gospel Reading: Lk 9:28b-36
“Abram believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness,” we hear in the First Reading this Sunday. Belief or faith in God is shown by our obedience, of which “Abraham is the model,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Because he was “strong in his faith,” Abraham became the “father of all who believe,” St. Paul says. In the First Eucharistic Prayer, we pray that God will accept our sacrifice as he accepted that of “Abraham, our father in faith.”
“Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God,” says the Catechism. “At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.”
It is this that makes Christian faith different from our faith in any human person, it says. It is right “to believe absolutely” in God; it would be “futile and false to place such faith in a creature.”
Faith is first of all God’s gift. It is his Holy Spirit who makes it easy for us to accept and believe the truth. However, it is also “an authentically human act,” the Catechism says.
Trust in God is not contrary to human freedom or reason. “Even in human relations,” it is not wrong to believe others or to trust their promises; for example, “when a man and a woman marry.”
In the act of faith, our intellect and our will cooperate with divine grace, the Catechism says.
Ultimately, we believe revealed truths not because they seem true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason, but on “the authority of God himself.”
For example, when God promised Abram that he would possess the land, Abram asked God how he could know that the promise would come true. And God replied not by trying to make his promise seem reasonable, but by giving Abram evidence of his power: the smoking fire pot and the flaming torch.
Nevertheless, so that our faith might be in accord with reason, “God willed that external proofs of his revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit,” the Catechism says.
For example, after Peter’s assertion that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus gave him evidence of his power in his Transfiguration, as we see in this Sunday’s Second Reading.
Faith is founded on God’s word, so it is more certain than any human knowledge, even when revealed truth seems obscure to human reason and experience.
Nevertheless, it “seeks understanding,” the Catechism says: “a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith and to understand better what He has revealed.” As St. Augustine said, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”
To be fully human, our faith in God must be free, and therefore nobody must be forced to embrace” it,” the Catechism says. “Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them.... He refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it.” Instead, his kingdom grows by the love with which he draws us to himself.
We must nurture our faith, or we can lose it. It is not enough to recite the Creed every Sunday, if during the rest of the week our minds are “set on earthly things,” St. Paul says. We must nourish our faith “with the word of God” and “beg the Lord” to increase it,” the Catechism says.
We believe in “the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy,” the Catechism says. In the meantime, however, “our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death” can “shake our faith and become a temptation against it.”
Then we must turn to Abraham, who “believed against hope,” and the Virgin Mary, who shared “the darkness of her Son’s suffering and death.”