Session 7: The Gift of Faith

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

7A:

  • What makes us trust some people more than others?
  • Who are the people you trust most and why?
  • Do you think it is generally good to trust others?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

7B:

  • What were the main religious beliefs or human values or moral principles that you grew up with?
  • How have your beliefs or values changed over the years?
  • What are the most important values you hold today and why?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

7C:

  • 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?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

  • #20 to #25 – what is faith? [4 pages]
  • #299 to #309 – the virtues, including faith, hope and charity [4 pages]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

7A – What is faith?

In the English language, the words “belief” and “faith” have a slightly different meaning. If I say, “I believe you”, it means I think you are telling the truth. But if I say, “I have faith in you”, it means I trust you. It’s more personal. To have faith in someone is quite a big thing. It’s almost like a commitment: I think you are trustworthy and I want to be faithful to you.

Sometimes we need to move from belief to faith; from the head to the heart; from a vague opinion to a real commitment. You see this in the first Christian disciples. It took them a long time to work out what they really believed about Jesus.

When Peter is sinking beneath the waves on the Lake of Galilee he has to reach out and take the hand of Jesus. When Matthew hears the call of Jesus he has to get up, open the door, and walk out of the tax office where he is working. When the people of Jerusalem are moved by the preaching of Peter, they have to repent and be baptised. This is faith.

In the Gospels, there are some things Jesus can only do if people are willing to put their trust in him. He heals a blind man near Jericho and then says to him, “Your faith has made you well”. The miracle only took place because the man was willing to shout out and ask for the help of Jesus.

Jesus says to his disciples: Do you trust me? Are you willing to believe me? He said to the young fishermen: Are you willing to leave your nets in the boat and come with me? He said to a man he had healed: Are you willing to go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you? He says to all of us, in different ways, are you willing to take a step and show that you trust me? That’s the meaning of faith.

7B – Are Christians just stupid or are there good reasons to believe?

Christians are required to use their intelligence; to examine things critically; and above all to seek the truth. It’s not OK to just switch your brain off. There are good reasons for believing in God, and for believing in Jesus Christ.

So you might say, “OK, then prove it to me!” And I’d reply: Maybe you are looking for the wrong thing. I can certainly give you lots of evidence. But maybe not a cast iron proof. And this is really the heart of the matter. Christianity deals with rational evidence, but not with scientific proof. They are both important. But they are not the same.

Very often, when people start to believe, it’s not one thing alone, it’s many different things coming together. It’s thinking about the existence of God; reading something in the bible; hearing the story of Jesus. It’s the goodness of a Christian friend; an experience of suffering; a glimpse of beauty. It’s a deep sense of gratitude; a coincidence that seemed to have some kind of meaning; a prayer that had some kind of answer.

These may be small things, but when you put them together they point to something much bigger, to the goodness of God, and an intuition that he has spoken to us in Jesus Christ. Yes, you need reason and logic. But it will only get you so far. You also need insight, intuition, understanding, wisdom, vision. You need to step back and see the whole.

When I put all the evidence together, I see something that makes me want to believe. There is no mathematical proof, but there is enough good evidence here for me to take a step forward. In this sense, I think there are many good reasons for us to believe.

7C – How to take a step of faith

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 can do this right now in your heart; or when you are home this evening. Just to say: “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.