I write this blog post on Thanksgiving Day, when we in Canada pause and give thanks to God for his countless blessing to us. Like you, I have many personal blessings for which I am grateful to God. Perhaps the most beautiful is that which I share with you: the gift of faith.
The Christian tradition speaks of faith in two ways. First, faith has a content, which stems from the revelation God has given us in Jesus Christ. We believe, for example, that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, that God is a Trinity of Persons, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us in the sacramental celebrations of the Church, that we are called to holiness by growing in our relationship with the Lord and following his commands, and so on. This faith has been handed on to us in many ways: in our families, our parishes, our Catholic schools. It is a magnificent treasure that leads to life.
Faith is also, and fundamentally, a human act. We believe that God alone is God, that we are but creatures; we believe that almighty God loves us and has come to us in his Son to save us; we believe that God remains with us, guiding and shaping all the events of our lives and turning them to the good. Because we believe all of this, we entrust our lives into his hands, trusting that it is he who leads us, even though we may not always know where he is taking us. Faith, in other words, is surrender to the love and the plan of God, a surrender grounded in our unshakeable trust in his never-failing mercy and faithful presence.
In both of these dimensions, faith is gift. By the working of the Holy Spirit we both understand the content of our faith, growing constantly in our knowledge of it, and make the act of faith, acknowledging Jesus as Lord and surrendering our lives and our future to him. By the Holy Spirit we see now the blessings that have been ours throughout our lives and trust that countless blessings await us still as we step into the future. In the Holy Spirit we are truly and deeply thankful for the gift of faith.
I was privileged this weekend to see this gift on full display among the people of Holy Spirit parish in Edmonton. After a period of discernment the decision was reached that the parish should close. On Sunday I celebrated their last Mass with them. Clearly it was a sad day for the parishioners, who have loved their parish and supported it in many ways. Yet even amid sadness the faith of the people was palpable. Because of their trust in the goodness of God, they understood this to be a moment not only of conclusion but also of transition. I witnessed this same faith in meetings I have had over the past months with parishioners in Marwayne, Bentley and Winfield, small mission communities where we have also recognized and accepted the need to close beloved churches. The faith will now be celebrated and handed on in new places, where they will continue to receive God’s blessings. God remains always near, and in faith we trust that he turns all things to the good for those he has called according to his purpose (cf. Romans 8:28). For this faith, that grounds our hope, we give thanks with all our hearts.