Sometimes you hear it said that faith is a gift. And I think that’s partly true. There are stories in Christian history when someone’s life is turned completely upside down. It wasn’t part of their plan. The Holy Spirit often surprises us.
Perhaps the most famous story is the conversion of St Paul. When he was on a journey to Damascus, a light that seemed to come from heaven shone around him. He fell to the ground and heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him. He was an enemy of the Church, but through this unexpected meeting with Christ he was given the gift of Christian faith.
But sometimes faith feels more like a choice than a gift. I think this is more common. We can see a lot of signs, but we need to say Yes and take a personal step of faith. God invites us, but he doesn’t force our hand. He always appeals to our freedom.
My favourite image of this is a painting by Caravaggio called The Calling of St Matthew. Jesus is on the right of the picture, pointing to a group of tax collectors across the room. Matthew, in my interpretation, is the young man on the far left, counting his coins at the table.
His shoulders are hunched; his head bent down. He’s half-heard the invitation to follow Christ, but he is still lost in his own thoughts, not wanting to look up. He’s not sure where it’s all going to go. It’s as if the whole world is waiting to see how he will respond.
There are moments when faith requires a choice, when we need to make a commitment, despite our uncertainties. It’s the same in many areas of life. If you like someone and want to get to know them better, you have to take the risk of talking to them. If you want to get a new job, you have to take the risk of putting in the application form, and then the risk of going for an interview. These are calculated risks not irrational leaps of faith.
I remember taking a step of faith when I was seventeen. I’d been reading about Christianity. I’d gone to church once or twice with some friends. But I was definitely an observer and not a believer. I used to sit on the back row of the church with my arms crossed, very careful not to get too involved.
But then one evening at home, something in me felt drawn to say a prayer. I certainly wasn’t comfortable, but it felt like a risk I needed to take. I remember actually saying, “Oh God, I’m not sure if you exist; but if you do, please help me.” That might sound illogical, but it wasn’t. The reality was, I half-believed. And with that half-belief I made a half-prayer.
It was a really important step. Something changed for me. It was as if it unlocked a door, from the inside, and over the weeks and months ahead that door very slowly began to open.
We are all invited to take a step of faith. To believe in a loving God; to believe in his Son Jesus; and to believe in the gift of his Holy Spirit to us. Now you might not feel ready for this. But I’m inviting you, at the very least, to be open to taking a step of faith.
What does that actually mean? It might be to share your questions with a Christian friend; to read the Bible; to visit a church; to learn more about the Christian faith. These are little steps. They can be signs of faith.
Or it might be to make a prayer of faith, even a very simple one. You could do this right now. Just to say, out loud, or in your heart: “Jesus, I believe in you,” or “Jesus, please help me,” or “Dear God, please give me the gift of your Holy Spirit.”
I promise you, that to take a small step in faith, to say a simple prayer like this, will make a real difference. It will allow God to work in your life in a new way. It could be the beginning of the most amazing adventure of faith.
Questions for reflection
What do you think about the idea of taking a step of faith?
Is it attractive to you? Or what holds you back?
Do you think faith can be justified or is it always unexplainable?
Can you think of a risk you have ever taken? Was it worth it?
This blog is extracted from SYCAMORE: The Catholic Faith Explained.In SYCAMORE you will find answers to the most common questions about life and faith, whether you want to deepen the faith you already have or are exploring the faith for the first time.
To learn more about the Catholic faith in an approachable way, or for help passing it on to others, get your copy of SYCAMORE today.