In the Gospel of John, the personal nature of the act of faith is stressed by the very use of the verb “to believe.” In the Gospel, we encounter the expression “to believe,” which means to lend credence to or hold to be true. For instance, to believe Scripture (Jn 2:22), or Moses, or Christ (Jn 5:46). We also encounter the expression “to believe that,” meaning to be convinced that, or just to believe. For instance, to believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, that he is the Christ, that the Father has sent him.
But alongside these well-known usages, there is one unknown to profane language yet most dear to the Evangelist, and that is the expression “to believe in,” as in the sentence: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me (Jn 14:1). Believe here means: have faith in, entrust yourself to the person you believe in, build your own life on that person. It indicates a total and unconditional trust that is to replace all human insecurity. A trust in consequence of which the heart can never again be troubled by anything. Jesus asks the same kind of trust for himself that God asked of his people in the Old Testament.
Believing in the Son of God is something different and more than believing that Jesus is the Son of God…. As regards the former, there are all sorts of degrees and you would never finish progressing through them. In other words, you can always trust more in Christ, by surrendering yourself to him more and more and losing yourself in him, until faith in the Son of God becomes the whole reason for your life. Like Paul, who could say: The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).
The vast separation between the good life and the holy life is always far more than we realize. The difference is not evident simply in the exterior activity of life. The generous accomplishments of a good person may outshine the limited works of the holy person. What distinguishes the holy person is the interior quality of a soul seeking God, and this is often not seen so visibly. The good life will always be observable to some degree, but whether or not a life is truly holy can easily be concealed in its essential truth. The most important acts of a holy life take place in secret, within quiet depths of the soul. And these most important acts are the offerings it makes for others. There is no great love of God unless a soul is great in offering itself for others. And this begins in the intensity of its prayer, where God alone sees.
The word holiness ought not to be tossed about too lightly, as though the reality were easily reached. There is a danger that an overworked and casual evocation of holiness as the goal of life reduces the immense challenge of giving all to God to a manageable habit of steady, low-cost generosities. Dorothy Day kept on her bedside table a striking phrase of Dostoevsky that conveys, by contrast, the starker reality of a true offering: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” It is precisely the harsh and dreadful nature of sacrificial love that makes such love and the offering that accompanies it most fruitful for the salvation of souls.
A task in prayer that must be repeated with regularity: to search for the deeper solitary region of the heart where a single word spoken in silence has more impact on our soul than hours of replete eloquence taking place at the shallows of life.
~ A Reflection by Father Donald Haggerty, ‘The Contemplative Hunger’