Man’s response to God

Cathal Barry examines the Catechism’s suggestions for who perfectly embodies the obedience of faith

The invisible God, by his revelation and from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The adequate response to this invitation is faith,” it says.

By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, "the obedience of faith".

To obey in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. The Catechism claim Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture. It also declares the Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.

The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel's ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham's faith: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the Promised Land (Genesis 23:4). By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. And by faith Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.

Abraham, therefore, fulfils the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). And because he was “strong in his faith”, Abraham became the “father of all who believe” (Romans 4:11).

The Old Testament is rich in witnesses to this faith. The Letter to the Hebrews proclaims its eulogy of the exemplary faith of the ancestors who received divine approval. Yet “God had planned something better for us”: the grace of believing in his Son Jesus (Hebrews 11:40).

As already mentioned, the Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the new and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that ‘with God nothing will be impossible’ and so giving her assent: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." (Luke 37-38) It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.

Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the cross, the Catechism notes that Mary's faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfilment of God's word. And so the Church venerates in Mary the “purest realisation of faith”.