People would rather speak of love than of faith. I think this is because love is accompanied by some good feelings while faith, even the mind would rather not engage with it. Faith demands for the mind to make a leap, an action not supported by the society’s reprogramming of the mind in judging what is true. An incurable thinker I tried to decode the program behind this leap not because I do not believe in God but because I wanted to understand why I do.
In college I shop for different faiths. I went to lectures by some Korean cult preachers. I stayed in several of their lectures because they seemed sincere. I listened to Protestant pastors over the radio because they explain the bible in a very scholarly and logical way they almost convinced me. I could still remember the patience of the Jehovah’s witnesses who kept coming back to our house hoping that they could win me to their side one day. I subscribed to Health and Home magazine and bought even their back issues. It did not turn me into an Adventist but it made me a vegetarian.
I remember with fondness now, the debates I had with my INC (Iglesia ni Cristo) classmates. They always win when they start to ask me “how come you stopped going to your church?” Cornered, I would retort “My church attendance in high school was good for the next ten years. (Four of this ten years I earned from my perfect attendance to the Sunday and feasts of saints masses and thanksgiving masses for the sisters’ anniversaries; the one year for graduating outstanding catechist; and, the five years for wearing the Chinese-collared, long-sleeved, pleated, immaculate white dress in all these occasions!). My calculation was correct. Ten years later, I found myself ticking not only my mass attendance but also other practices of piety. I must have missed it so much I agreed to do all these without much protest although I did customize the template and developed my own system of recording. I always like to personalize.
The dictionary of theology defines faith as the revealed truth about God through the Holy Spirit. It is also our response to this Divine self-disclosure. Life has taught me that intimacy necessitates knowledge and acceptance of the truth of oneself and of the other. All these years my intimacy with God had always been a function of the extent to which I responded to His self-disclosure and my acceptance and consciousness of the truth that everything about me is gift.
Faith is a gift from God and the root of every good wrote Blessed James Alberione in the prayer To Our Lady of the Annunciation. Indeed love, patience, gentleness are just some of its sweetest fruits that many people need but are in short supply. The challenge then is to bear the fruits that are more in demand. But lest we forget that for a tree to bear good fruit it’s the roots that should be nourished, not the fruit. For what good is love if it is not rooted in the faith in Christ Jesus? What is patience if it is not for the love of Christ? What is gentleness if it is not the gentleness of the Lamb of God? Who are we if we are not rooted in Christ?
For some reason the good fruits I bear in abundance are those only a few finds sweet. Perhaps if they are served, as jams or marmalade. There are people who can’t imagine breakfast without it. Yes, if the fruit is not in demand, repackage it and find your market or create one. Paul repackaged for the gentiles.
PS. The best nourishment for the root are prayer and … study.
(Photos from the National Geographic)