“Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering what God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.” (Blaise Pascal, Pensées)
That is just a small part of the argument known as Pascal’s Wager, which contends that because we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by believing in God and in what God is, it would be unwise to deny His reality. For by denying His reality, we lose everything if we are wrong and gain nothing if we are right. So have faith.
Have faith in the extraordinary, the supernatural, and the divine. Have faith that nothing you see around you is a coincidence, that there is an order and goodness to creation, that you and all human beings have a purpose in this life, and that the revelations presented to us in scripture are the truth about God’s plan. We can study Catholicism for our entire lives and still not understand all of the mysteries we see, and that is where this very important component of our salvation comes into play: faith.
Protestants believe that it is sola fide, by faith alone, that we attain salvation. John Wycliffe, a predecessor to Protestantism and Church dissident, denied the claims of the papacy, the power of clergy to perform the sacraments, and even the legitimacy of the sacraments themselves. He contended that it was by faith alone in the word of God that we would be saved, and Martin Luther clung to this idea.
“Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation.” (John Wycliffe)
This is not the Catholic perspective on faith. Rather, faith is a component of our salvation, along with a resolution to cooperate with God’s grace so that He may grant us eternal life. That cooperation with God’s grace encompasses the way that we live our lives and our participation in His divine plan: receiving the sacraments, treating our fellow man as Christ would, and living totally in the service of God.
But what about faith? What exactly is it? As an actionable concept, it’s hard to act on because of its somewhat intangible nature. Faith asks us to believe in something that we cannot fully understand because God has revealed it to us.
“What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe ‘because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.’ (Dei Filius 3: DS 3008)” (CCC, 156)
The Catechism continues, stating that firstly, faith is certain. It is more certain than any or all of human knowledge because it is predicated upon the revelation of God, our all-good, all-loving, all-merciful, all-knowing creator. Though these truths may seem obscure to our limited minds, the certainty of God’s divinity overshadows any possibility of mistake. As John Henry Cardinal Newman said, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”
Secondly, faith seeks understanding. Although we are incapable of completely understanding every aspect of God and our faith, that does not mean we should abandon the endeavor. Faith seeks understanding. We embark on a journey to deepen our faith, and that journey lasts a lifetime. By attaining a greater appreciation for the life of Christ and His teaching, our faith grows ever stronger.
And thirdly, faith and science. Both are required, and both can be upheld in tandem. God has revealed mysteries and truths to us, but He also bestowed reason upon the human mind. God does not contradict Himself, “nor can truth ever contradict truth.” Methodical, accurate, moral science will never contradict the faith because they were derived from the same God.
There’s an old story of a town that was experiencing an exceptional drought during an especially dry summer. The temperatures were high, and the town hadn’t had rain for months. The crops were drying up and the water supply was low. People were getting sick and dying from heat stroke on a worryingly increasing basis. Nobody knew what to do.
The local priest sent word to the townspeople to ask if they might join him in the town square to pray and ask God if He could send rain that would end the drought. The townspeople agreed and made resolutions to join him in prayer and fasting. The congregation gathered in the square – men and women, old and young – to ask God to unseal the sky that seemed to be withholding the life-giving water that they needed.
In the crowd, there stood a little girl, no older than ten years old. As she stood in the hot sun with her parents and the rest of the town, petitioning God to save them, she held something in her hands; something that nobody else had thought to bring: an umbrella. Of all the townspeople gathered there that day, she was the only one certain that it would rain. She had faith that God would answer her prayers and end the drought as she asked Him to.
Let us have the faith of a child, always trusting in the plan that God has for us, whether we know what He has in store for us or not.
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:3-5)
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