The great Christian writer C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential believers of the last century. His many books including Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain and The Abolition of Man, have helped millions of Christians to understand their faith better in the light of modern challenges.
Because of the wide influence he has enjoyed it can be difficult for us to believe that at one time he was an atheist. Though he was raised as a Christian in the Anglican Communion, he abandoned it during his years as a university student and then as a professor. As happens to so many people, once he became successful he forgot how much he needed God.
Then, one day, he was speaking with a colleague, a history professor whom he admired a great deal, about the New Testament. His friend shocked him by saying, “You know, it looks as though all the events detailed in the New Testament really happened.” Up to that time, C. S. Lewis considered it all to be a myth like those of the ancient Greeks and Romans. But now he was hearing a highly educated and learned man claiming that it all really happened.
As Lewis thought about what his colleague had said, a question kept coming to his mind. Is Jesus really who He claimed He was? Is He really the Son of God? If He is not the Son of God then He must be a liar or He must be delusional like those with mental illness who say they are Napoleon. But if He really is who He says He is, if He really is the Son of God, then He must be listened to and obeyed. If He really is the Messiah, then one must drop everything to follow Him. And it was right there and then that C. S. Lewis became a believer in Jesus and dedicated His life to helping others come to believe in the Son of God.
That is the question that God poses to all of us here today. Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God come down from heaven to save the world? Do we believe He is who He says He is?
If we do not believe - if we claim that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic - then coming to Mass is a big waste of time. But if we do believe - if we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of the World - then coming to Mass is not enough. We have to drop everything and follow Him. We have to learn about every word He spoke because it is the very word of God which teaches us how to live in a way that pleases Him. We have to strive to live according to His word in everything we do. If Jesus is who He says He is, we have to dedicate our whole lives to serving Him.
When we come to understand who Jesus is and when we decide to give our lives over to Him, we call it receiving the gift of faith. Faith as we understand it, is more than a simple belief that God exists. Many people say they believe in God, but few of them live according to His word and the teaching of His Church. Merely believing that God exists cannot save us. As Saint James tells us, even the demons believe that God exists. Rather the faith that saves us is believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died to free us from our sins, that He rose from the dead to give us the promise of everlasting life and that He established the Church to pass on this good news of salvation.
How do we know if we have such faith? The only way to really know is to take a hard look at or lives and ask ourselves if what we believe is having an impact in the choices we make and the way we act. The faith that saves us is one that makes a real difference in our lives causing us not only to think differently but to act differently. We will have a commitment to prayer and to receiving the Sacraments. We will have a heart that is sensitive to the needs of the people around us. If we truly believe in Jesus, our lives should be markedly different from that of those who do not believe.
If after examining ourselves it is clear to us that we do not have enough faith - and who of us hear can really say that we do? - we need not be alarmed. Saint Paul teaches us in today’s second reading that faith, first and foremost, is a gift. It is not something we earn. It is not something we have a right to. It is freely given by God. And what is the best way to receive a gift? Simply by asking for it. To receive the gift of faith, all we have to do is ask for it and wait for God to grant it to us. Because He loves us and wants to save us, He will not deny it to us.
We are gathered here today because we have come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We have given our lives to him and wish to receive the power to live in the Spirit of His resurrection. We will stand now to profess our faith in One God, in Jesus Christ His Only Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit who is Lord and Giver of Life. Let us ask our Heavenly Father that our profession of faith not be empty words we recite but a way of life we commit to with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength proclaiming to all the world with our deeds that Jesus is the Son of God.