“I believe in God, the Father almighty … I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ… I believe in the Holy Spirit”
Dear brethren, peace be with you all.
It is extremely important that as Christian pilgrims, we constantly awaken in ourselves both as individuals and as a Church a conscious faith in our Creator and God. This is because faith in God defines us as Christians, sets us apart and sustains us through all things. Faith is a pivotal element in our relationship with God. The centrality of it could be seen in the conscious words of response the above question draws from the Church and her members. These are words with which we profess our faith in God. This faith is professed in the Creed, celebrated in the liturgy and lived daily in loving observance of all that Christ taught and commanded us to keep.
Since we have consciously and devoutly professed that we believe in God, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, we must understand that this profession is not without implications. So what does it mean to believe in God?
The Implication of our Profession of Faith
Our profession of faith in God must go beyond our lips to bring forth good fruits that last. Our faith has to be seen through the good fruits our lives here bring forth. This is very significant because Christ himself spoke of fruits and their kinds thereof as a mark of identification when he said, “You will be able to tell them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Faith is shown in concrete terms and not just in calling out ‘Lord, Lord’. In one of Jesus’ teachings, he spoke out in abhorrence of this practice “It is not anyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). By these words “but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven”, Christ shows his preference for faith through obedience.
Being that our faith has to have something to show for it (this is only when we would truly say we believe); we turn to Sacred Scripture for two examples: Abraham and the Blessed Virgin Mary. These knew what it meant to believe and so showed their faith in God both in words and deeds. We hope that through their example, we would find strength to truly profess our faith in God and live by it. When we believe in God, we completely trust Him and consider Him to be the fundamental initiating and sustaining source of all existence as Scripture teaches, “It is in Him that we move and live and have our being” (Acts 17:28). It is in this state, therefore, that we completely submit our whole being to Him and become His instruments to be used to the glory of His name.
We find in Abraham, an example of such complete submission and in the Virgin Mary the most perfect embodiment of it. The evidence of Abraham’s faith is spelt out in the Letter to the Hebrews: by faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; even when he didn’t know where he was going, by faith, he lived as a stranger in the Promised Land, by faith, Sarah conceive even when she was past the age, by the same faith Abraham did not hesitate to offer up Isaac in sacrifice (Hebrews 11:8-17). And, for the Virgin Mary, it was by faith that she heard and welcomed the message brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that even in her state as a virgin, God would do what He had promised and so gave her assent: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). We must note that it was not possible for Mary in her youthfulness and intellectual lowliness to have understood the message the angel brought her; she only trusted in whatever God was going to do. The Holy Spirit made this known through the lips of her cousin Elizabeth when she voiced out in confirmation and praise of Mary’s faith: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45). In the examples of Abraham and the Virgin Mary, we find who to believe in, how to believe and what it means to believe.
Faith puts us on the way to salvation; hence it leads us to obey freely Christ’s words which are truth and life. Believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One He sent, His “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is "well pleased." This is the reason why God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples: "Believe in God, believe also in me" (John 14:1). We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (John 1:18). Because he "has seen the Father", Jesus Christ is the only one who knows Him and can reveal Him.
Believing in Jesus amounts to sharing in his Spirit. It is important to believe in the Holy Spirit because he is the one who reveals to us who Jesus is. For "no one can say "Jesus is Lord", except by the Holy Spirit", who "searches everything, even the depths of God. No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God"(1 Cor 12:3). We believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.
To believe in God is to accept our human emptiness and acknowledge our dependence on Him. But before we can exercise this faith, we must have the grace of God to move and assist us; we must have the interior help of the Holy Spirit, who moves our hearts and converts us to God, who opens the eyes of our minds and makes it possible for us to accept and believe the truth. The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts.
Dearly beloved in Christ, faith is very necessary in our relationship with God. The glaring necessity of our faith in God is beautifully expressed by St. Paul, “Without faith we cannot please God” (Hebrews 11:6). With faith let us not seek help elsewhere but truly turn to Him not just for our daily material needs but for the strength to please Him by working for His kingdom here on earth. Like Abraham and Mary, our faith in God will earn us blessings that will remain in the hearts and on the lips of generations forever. This is worth embracing!
Lord, we believe; help our unbelief. Amen.
+ Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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