The major heresy of the Western churches is that they have largely turned the very meaning of faith into its exact opposite. True faith involves not knowing and even not needing to know, but we made faith demanding to know and insisting that we do know!
Our faith, frail as it is sometimes, is also flexible. It is self-correcting as we have profound encounters with people who are different from us and are exposed to new experiences and ideas.
It is not that the Annunciation leads Mary out of doubt and into faith; it is that her encounter with the angel leads her out of certainty and into holy bewilderment. Out of familiar spiritual territory and into a lifetime of pondering, wondering, questioning, and wrestling.
Both Jesus’ and Paul’s notion of faith is much better translated as foundational confidence or trust that God cares about what is happening right now. This is clearly the quality that Jesus fully represents and then praises in other people.
I would just be there with homeless youth in a state of not knowing and trust. Paying attention to what was, bearing witness to their pain, helping them to hold their pain, and often breaking with them as a result of what I was witnessing.
Father Richard invites us to find an embodied method of prayer as a way to participate more fully in our faith:
Most of religious and church history has been largely preoccupied with religious ideas, about which we could be wrong or right. When faith is all about ideas, we do not have to be part of it; we just need to talk correctly about it. We never have to dive in and illustrate that spiritual proof is only in the pudding.
The spiritual question is this: Does one’s life give any evidence of an encounter with God? Does this encounter bring about through us any of the things that Paul describes as the “fruits” of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22)? Are we any different from our surroundings, or do we reflect the predictable cultural values and biases of our own group?
The “participatory turn” of faith is learning from concrete practices, personal disciplines, and interactive dialogues that change the seeker and allow and encourage the encounter itself. Many Christians today are rediscovering prayer beads, prayer of quiet, icons, contemplative sits, Taizé chants, charismatic prayer, walking meditation, Zen chores, extended silence, solitude, and disciplined spiritual direction. Up until now, someone could have a doctorate in theology as a Catholic or Protestant and not really know how to pray or even enjoy prayer or experience union with God. They could recommend it officially to others and maybe even define it; now we know that we must personally live our faith.
Today, find some way to dive into your faith and experiment with ways of opening yourself to transformation, to encounter, to conscious participation in God.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Brian McLaren on growing in faith through doubt.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 09 (detail), United States, photograph, used with permission. Tory Hallenburg, Walking on Water (detail), 2018, United States, photograph, Unsplash. Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 10 (detail), 2022, United States, photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Venturing beyond the monochrome of certainty, we walk into water and on ground we cannot always see. Our ripples spread beyond ourselves into this movement of faith.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.