Faith is Acknowledging a Presence
Monsignor Luigi Giussani describes faith as the acknowledgment of a Presence. The Christian faith is more than commemoration; “it means acknowledging the operative or operating presence of the Mystery, of the Father in our life. But the way in which the Father works is called Christ, and therefore the Church, and therefore communion among us.” My faith is in Jesus Christ who is acting in my life through the members of his Church in the here and now, then my awareness of myself and of the people and circumstances of my life begins to change radically. At this point faith becomes life.
Saint Paul bears witness to what Giussani shows to be the essence of faith. Paul’s conversion occurs when he encounters the risen Christ directly, but how does his faith continue from there? He is put into relationship with other Christians, and Paul recognizes that it is through these disciples of Christ that God is present and operating in his life. Ananias baptizes him; Barnabas, Silas, Luke and others travel with him; Lydia offers him hospitality. Paul’s acknowledgment of Christ’s continued presence will change the way he looks at even the most difficult of circumstances, recognizing God’s operative hand in everything he faces. Paul doesn’t merely suffer the shipwreck near Malta, he faithfully lives it as a God-given opportunity to proclaim Christ in a new place. His faith is his acknowledgment and ready response to Christ as the giver of this seeming disaster.
Paul sees himself in a new light as well. He knows frail as he is, that he carries the treasure of God’s presence in the earthen vessel of his humanity. He understood the great affliction that the presbyters of Ephesus held for him was because he had become one with Christ, in loving Paul they were loving Jesus. His weaknesses don’t lead Paul to doubt Christ’s presence with and thorough him.
Benedict XVI has reminded us that the Church is called here and now to “reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light.”
We await the fulness of the end, but we live now in the midst of internal and external shadows, and Christ enters reality as it is to be with us now. Let us live the faith of Saint Paul, Luigi Giussani, and Benedict XVI in acknowledging Christ’s active presence in the fleshly, earthly, shadowy present where each of us is living now.