In a recent conversation, a distressed friend expressed his dismay over the modern crisis of faith. He described various movements which seemed to support it. The discussion provoked some thought: Is he right? Is there a crisis of faith? Has faith lost?
It would seem that faith is very dominant and influential in many people’s lives. They have faith in their abilities and potential, their finances and employment, their use of power, and in their many resources. Faith seems overwhelmingly present and assertive. The real question, seems to be what or who people and society believe in?
There is no crisis of faith. The real problem is that many people no longer have faith in God. Man has set his standards too low and turned to less transcendent realities. Why is that? The answer to that question seems to assert a different crisis. Perhaps modern man is really struggling with a crisis of love.
The crisis, a word that simply means “crossroads,” is whether the human person will rely on himself and focus on his own wants, or whether he will love beyond himself and receive the love of others. The crisis is whether or not he will have the love to structure his faith. At the root of the crisis is whether the person will acknowledge and accept God’s love for him. It begins with the question of whether he will place his pride and self-faith to the side and begin to see God’s providence in his life and cooperate with his grace — simply put, whether he will work to love God back. This relationship of God and man is the whole heart and soul of life in the here and now, and it gives a foundation and impetus to our love for others.
Faith by itself is dead and, when left to itself, it will only feed on our self-interests and fallen desires. Faith motivated by love, however, will want fulfillment and realize its need for a relationship with God. It will seek to order itself by trusting and relying on God, and will foster within the person an even deeper love and stronger hope in him. It will encourage acts of selflessness and service to others. It will develop unimagined creativity and unnoticed talents. In this process, the person becomes more himself and he understands his own worth and dignity. Having this foundation, he is then able to love others more sincerely.
St. Paul teaches us that the most important of all virtues is love, because it’s the only one that lasts beyond death. In heaven, we won’t need faith nor hope any more, because the things we had faith in and that we hoped for, will all be fulfilled. Love, however, will endure because we will live in God, who is love.
The crisis is whether we will accept God’s love now and labor to love him back and, in that effort, whether we will love others and accept their love for us.
Jeff Kirby is a seminarian for the Diocese of Charleston who will begin his third year of theology at the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City this fall.