A both charming and captivating movie that came out about four years ago was that of Little Boy. One of the most memorable and impressive scenes was when the Little Boy was confronted with a miracle situation in which the mountain had to be moved. Indeed, Jesus Himself said faith can move the mountains. With fervor, enthusiasm, and all of the energy in his soul, Little Boy beckoned for the moving of the mountain and in fact the mountain really did move, to the surprise and shock of all except Little Boy. The words of Jesus ring true: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” (Mt 17:20) Or, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Mk 17:6)
This being the case, let us talk about the virtue of faith, what it is, where it comes from, and how can we cultivate the virtue of faith and be like Little Boy, able to move the mountains and uproot and transplant the trees.
1. DEFINITION OF FAITH. One of the most simple ways of defining faith is the following: “To believe in a God whom we do not see and to trust in His Word.” Jesus gently rebuked Saint Thomas, given the nickname Doubting Thomas because he was absent and disbelieved the Easter night appearance of Jesus. The Lord gently upbraided the Apostle with these words: “Thomas, blessed are those who believe without seeing.” (Jn 20:29) With the following words Thomas offers to the world at large one of the most simple and profound professions of faith: “My Lord and my God.” (Jn 20:28)
2. ORIGIN OF FAITH. Faith is one of the three theological virtues that with Hope and Charity are planted in the very depths of our souls in the moment of Baptism. When you were baptized by the priest, deacon, or Bishop, using the Trinitarian formula: “____________” (insert Name), I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” not only was Original Sin wiped clean from your soul, and not only did you become a living Temple of the Holy Spirit, but you also received these three very special Gifts, the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.
3. FAITH COMPARED TO A SEED PLANTED IN A GARDEN. One of the best images for understanding the dynamic process of growth necessary for the virtue of Faith is that of a seed planted in a garden. It could be the best seed in the world. However, if that seed is not cultivated carefully and constantly, that seed can wither up and die. So it is with the virtue of Faith: it must be cultivated or it too can wither up, dry up, and die!
4. FAITH MUST BE PRACTICED. Not only must the virtue of Faith be cultivated, but it also must be put into practice. A weight-lifter, a baseball player, a swimmer, a runner—all of these athletes might potentially be the best in their field. However, if they do not practice, they will never really know and exhibit the talents they have been endowed with. This short saying resounds as true: “Practice makes perfect.” The younger generation has coined this one-liner: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Following are practical ways that we can cultivate and grow in our faith by making concrete acts of faith.
5. PRAYER. The saintly Jesuit-Theologian who died in the year 2000 and is already a Servant of God, Father John Hardon, made an acute observation related to prayer and faith or the loss of faith. It was his observation that it almost always happens that those people who abandon the practice of prayer, who abandon this essential practice, at the same time lose their faith. It stands to reason because every time we pray, we are making an act of faith, we are talking to a God who is invisible, whom we cannot see with our physical sense of sight.
6. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS. A key act of faith is when you make the Sign of the Cross saying the words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” This gesture and these words express your faith in the most profound Mystery of the Catholic Faith, the Blessed Trinity, that you believe in one God and Three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
7. GENUFLECTION. Another key corporal act of faith is that of genuflection, in which your right knee touches the ground every time you walk in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Your faith is directed towards this Mystery of Faith, that it is Jesus truly present in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar.
8. BOWING UPON HEARING THE NAME OF JESUS. Saint Paul says: “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11) These words of the great Apostle Saint Paul express the greatness of the Person and the Name of Jesus. Therefore, we should form that habit of bowing our head upon hearing the Name of Jesus. By doing so, our faith will be bolstered.
9. TRIALS SENT BY GOD. Like Abraham, like Peter and the Apostles, like the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, our faith has to be tested, purified, and perfected by means of many trials. Saint James expressed this truth in these words: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4). God must send us trials in one form or another so as to purify, strengthen, and fortify our faith. As rusty iron is purified and perfected in the crucible of fire, so our faith is perfected by various forms and sorts of trials. The episode of Peter, first walking and then sinking in the waves, in which he cried out: “Lord, save me”, elicited these words and gesture of Jesus: “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” and Jesus reached out His hand and grabbed on to that of Peter.” (Mt 14:30-31) Then Peter walked on water again! Like Peter, at times we are called to leave the comfort zone of our own boat and walk on the cold, rolling, and uncertain waters, all the while placing our faith and trust totally in the Lord Jesus.
10. SHARE YOUR FAITH WITH OTHERS. In a material way, when we give something away, we become impoverished. Not so when we share our faith. By sharing our faith in Jesus, in God, in the Catholic Church, we grow, and the more generously we share, the greater growth we experience! Saint Paul reminds us: “There is more joy in giving then in receiving.” Share your faith and you will grow in your faith!
Let us beg Our Lady, who never lost her faith and total trust in God even in the most difficult times in her life, that she would pray fervently for us so that like Little Boy our faith will be so strong that we will be able to move the highest mountains. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.