The Catechism of the Catholic Church – Course Notes – Wednesday 11th October 2023

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Many years ago Steve Clark suggested in his short book Growing in Faith that there were three forms of faith discernible in the New Testament, especially in the gospels, namely, believing, trusting and expectant.

  • Believing faith could be referred to as doctrinal or propositional faith. In Par 143 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.  With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, “the obedience of faith.” When my late mother and I used to discuss theological issues, she would often conclude by saying, “Pat these mysteries are beyond the grasp of my limited mind, I am content to believe what the Church believes.” The danger of this type of faith is that it can be propositional rather than personal. Pope John Paul proposed another definition of faith in par. 51 of his Encyclical On the Holy Spirit, “faith is the openness of the human heart to the gift: to God’s self-communication in the Holy Spirit.” Rather than focusing on doctrines, this understanding of faith focuses on the God who is revealed to us especially in the person of Jesus Christ.
  • Trusting faith involves confidence in the goodness, benevolence and providence of God. The CCC mentions this kind of trusting faith when it cites the example of Abraham and Mary, as our father and mother in faith because they had such belief in the God of the promises that they trusted that the promises of God would be fulfilled. As The angel Gabriel said to our Lady, “blessed are you Mary because you believed that the promise of God would be fulfilled.” There are two kinds of Trusting faith. It can focus with confidence on

(A) The free unmerited gift of saving grace. That is what the hymn Amazing Grace is about.

(B) In everyday life those with trusting faith believe in the providence and the provision of God. They have such trust in God that they believe that all things, good and even bad work for good with those who love God. In other words, they believe in the notion of the happy fault, e.g., Joseph was able to say to his brothers who had cruelly sold him into slavery in Egypt, “do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen 45:5). In other words, God in his mercy, used the sin of the brothers as a springboard of blessing for them!

  • Expectant faith goes further than trusting faith in that it is convinced that God will act in specific circumstances of need in accordance with the divine believing them to be true. However, when faced by a particular problem such as an illness, he or she may not be quite sure whether God is acting or about to act, right now, in these particular circumstances. So, the person prays a prayer of petition in the hope that God may do something in the future, if what is asked is in accordance with the divine will e.g., “Lord I know that nothing is impossible to you. I ask you, if it is your will, to heal this person whom you love.” A person with expectant faith accepts that promises of God are true at a notional level. But as a result of a divine inspiration in a particular situation of need, e.g., he or she has no lingering doubts about the promises of God (cf. 1 Jn 5:14-16), and confidently believes that the Lord is acting, or soon will act. Often such a person prays a declaratory prayer of command rather than a supplicatory prayer of petition (Mk 11:23; Lk 17:6). Instead of having to see evidence in order to believe, this kind of confident faith believes in order to see.  As the letter to the Hebrews 11:1 puts it: “Faith is the assurance (in the present) of things hoped for (in the future), the conviction (in the present) of things not seen (in the future).”