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How does the gift of faith work?

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Question: How does the gift of faith work? If it is a gift, why does God give it to one person and not another? Will God take into account the different circumstances of people’s life in terms of them coming to faith? Also, what of two siblings raised in the same environment? One happily accepts the faith while the other makes light of it and even angrily rejects it. Why is this, and what would God do about that?

Luke Nover, LaPorte, Indiana

Answer: Faith works essentially by putting us in a trusting, life-changing, transformative relationship with the Lord. In and through this relationship, we trust that what he has revealed is true simply because he has revealed it, not merely because of external evidence. Trusting him and assenting, by his grace, to the work he must do, our knowledge of his ways increases, our love for him and all he loves grows, and thus we see our priorities and what we value come into conformity with what he loves and values.

By analogy, even human relationships can completely change our lives. Perhaps it was our parents who formed us or a teacher who inspired us. Perhaps it was someone who said, “You’re hired,” and who opened a career path for us. Perhaps it was the person we married. But, having met these people, our lives were never the same. If mere human relationships can so change and influence us, how much more so can a trusting relationship with the Lord transform us by faith.

Consider another analogy. Suppose you were journeying to a beautiful place called Shangri-La, high in the Himalayan Mountains. To get there, you’d likely have to hire a mountain guide to lead you through difficult terrain unfamiliar to you. He would lead and help you avoid pitfalls and to travel the most expedient way. To do this, you have to trust him to lead you, and you would need to follow him. Of course, we are going to a place far better than Shangri-La. Heaven is our goal, and Jesus is Our Lord and guide. We have to trust him and have faith that he can and will lead us there. In this way, faith works to save us by putting us into that trusting and saving relationship with the Lord.

As for God giving faith to one but not another, this would not be a proper way to put it. God offers faith to all and wants to save everyone (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). It is true some have greater opportunities to both hear and accept the faith. People born into believing homes and cultures where the Christian faith is widely known and preached will have an easier time than others. Surely, as you note, God will take into account the circumstances of a person’s life and to what degree they could have heard the call to faith and accepted it.

As for two siblings, theoretically given the same opportunities to come to faith, this, too, would be an aspect of judgment. To whom much is given, much is expected. So on the face of it, the unbeliever in this circumstance would face a more exacting judgment. However, there may be internal situations known to God that made faith more difficult to the second sibling. Man sees the appearance, but only God can see into the heart. Hence we must leave the details to God.

It is clear that we must all hear the call to trusting faith and summon others to the same.

Singing the Gradual

Question: My parish refused to allow the Gradual to be sung in place of the responsorial psalm. I requested this for the funeral of my father. They said the Gradual was only sung in Latin Masses. Why is the Gradual so seldom sung? We are losing a precious set of chants.

Name, location withheld

Answer: Singing the Gradual rather than the responsorial psalm is always an option in the Ordinary Form, not just the Traditional Latin Mass. Liturgical norms indicate, “instead of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary, there may be sung either the Responsorial Gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or the Responsorial Psalm or the Alleluia Psalm from the Graduale Simplex” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 61). The Gradual — called this because it was traditionally sung of the gradus (step) of the ambo — is usually rather difficult, requiring well trained singers to chant it. This is most likely the explanation as to its rare use. Where trained singers can be found, it is an option that should be explored.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.

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