Faith is central to Christianity. It is a fundamental feature of the spiritual life. Yet faith is often misunderstood as an assent to doctrinal statements. When Jesus says to the Samaritan leper, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you,” he is not suggesting the mended man has embraced a creedal statement or a philosophical principle. The faith Jesus speaks of is a capacity to affirm life, not a capability to believe a dogma.
Capability refers to a potential aptitude, skill or ability; while capacity indicates the possibility of containing something. A machine has the capability of accomplishing a task; a pitcher has capacity to hold water. Capability may get something accomplished; capacity is availability to receive.
To suggest that faith is a capacity implies that a certain feature of emptiness is necessary if we are to receive Spirit in any of its forms – graces or healings. Emptiness always means empty of something. A cup is empty of coffee. The tank is empty of gas. When we are empty of the ego we are available to be filled with Spirit.
The egocentric ego is full of itself. When in its grip, we take our thoughts, our opinions, our desires, and our self so seriously. The inflated sense of self revels in its capability to achieve and be productive.
Stress reduction programs are not the answer this problem. Ego reduction courses would be much more effective. Then, moving though life with an open mind and an open heart, we would be available for the surprising encounters with Spirit.
Fr. Joe Mitchell, CP is the director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
See his website: http://www.earthandspiritcenter.org/