Paul says in Romans: “The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve.”
In this passage he is making faith subjective. Faith is located in the individual. He’s almost saying, “if it feels good, do it!” He tempers this a little later in the letter, but he is also insinuating: don’t judge other people’s faith. Your conviction is your own. It’s a blessing in its own right. But it also means we can’t go around dismantling the hope of others, or judging them on their lack of confidence.
Have you ever been suspicious of the way people use the word “faith?” I have. Sometimes it seems like a short-cut for thinking, or a synonym for foolishness. “Faith-based” can also be a codeword for institutions like churches that want to have some say in the political sphere.
I believe, however, that “faith” is not merely about believing in things that simply won’t happen or in the supernatural. “Faith” is a description of what we trust. It provides a lens with which to see the world. It may be sometimes grainy, but it helps us understand what we see. In this thin sense, human beings are imbued with a faith as deep as the alphabet we use to speak.
It may also be the location where we find our strength: such as the love we have for our kids; the support we get from our loved ones; our commitment for a changed world order; in the belief that our parish can become a place to experience creativity in our communities.
“Faith” also describes those rituals, practices and thoughts that are so ingrained we don’t even reflect upon them. We aren’t even aware they are there. That we wake up, have breakfast, go to work, take care of the dog, and come home requires a habit of action that assumes the presence of millions of other actors and actions that may change at any moment. So to some extent, to say “I have faith” is to be redundant. Perhaps the best way to say we have “faith” is to say nothing at all, but merely to live confidently in the world, believing, however foolishly, that what we do matters.
Even more so, faith allows us to say that we can reflect upon our rituals, and have some choice about who we are and what we can be. It might be a faith that allows our awareness, our sensitivity, or our creativity to be harnessed to enchant the world and reveal the loveliness of the world that has been made and we continue to make. Blessed be!