Look not on our sins

‘Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’

This prayer, tucked away between the Lord’s prayer and greeting each other in the peace of Christ, always encourages me. However much I might fail to live up to the calling of Christ, there is a greater body, a greater reality, that holds the faith for me when I am too weak to hold it for myself. My feeble attempts to believe and to follow Jesus often founder, and my most ardent desire to be ‘all for Jesus’ (in the words of Mother Teresa) soon cools.

Fortunately for me, and for all of us, the faith we proclaim does not belong to us, but to the Church. It is a faith that goes before us, and comes to us as a gift. We are invited not to take it on as a burden, but to participate in it by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit, we are joined to the Church, the body of Christ, and her faith becomes ours as well. Saving faith in Christ comes not by a mighty effort of will and intellect, but by grace.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there is no work for my will and intellect to do. By no means! To receive the gift of God involves an attitude of humility and gratitude; we do not sit passively but train our wills actively to desire the faith of the Church. Fortunately the Holy Spirit shapes our hearts just for this purpose: to welcome Jesus, and in welcoming him, to become like him. With the Holy Spirit, my weakness becomes his strength.

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