Faith helps us overcome the world’s darkness

Most of our knowledge comes to us through our five senses. We know things that we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Even those things we know conceptually are extrapolated from our many sense experiences. Knowledge from the senses, however, falls short in one’s quest to know God, especially when trying to find him in the darkness of the world’s wickedness.

This darkness, I fear, often prevents people from knowing God or causes them to turn away from him. Too many are scandalized by the evil they witness and question how God – who is supposed to be merciful and just – can allow hatred and violence to exist in his creation. This was the very complaint made by the prophet Habakkuk, who, looking at the violence and destruction around him, accused God of failing in his governance of the world (see Hab 1:2-3).

God responds to the prophet by assuring him that all things will come to their fulfillment according to his providence and in their own time (Hab 2:2-4). He challenges the prophet and us to put our faith in him rather than in the things we can see, hear and touch. Faith is a kind of knowledge that comes to us apart from our five senses. It is born out of a direct relationship with God. This is why, even in the midst of the world’s darkness, we can live out our Christian lives as if we were walking in the light.

Faith is both God’s free gift and a person’s willing response to it.  I imagine that when the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith (Lk 17:5), they thought that he would magically cause it to well up within them. However, God does not work magic. He is already pouring out an immeasurable gift of faith upon all of us; there can be no increase in what he offers. Yet, if we desire to receive the gift of faith more deeply, then we must increase our response to God’s gift. This is why Jesus responds to the disciples by encouraging them to respond to God in obedience, to do the things they are obliged to do (Lk 17:6-10).  In other words, the more we practice faith, the more we are able to receive it.

We know by faith that the darkness of sin and death will be vanquished once and for all in the Second Coming of Christ. Until then, in these times of hatred and violence, people of faith must continually light the lamps of compassion, love and peace, and give witness to the fact that God is with his people and that darkness will not overcome.

With the prophet Habakkuk, we may want to curse God for the darkness when we cannot perceive exactly what he is doing, and so St. Paul encourages us to “stir into flame the gift of God” that we possess (2 Tm 1:6). He reminds us that the Holy Spirit already dwells within us (2 Tm 1:14).  So, when we fail to see him at work in the world around us, we would do well to look inwardly to see how he is moving us to be his agents in the world until his coming in glory.

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