Every Sunday after the homily, we stand together and say “I believe” followed by a recitation of historical and doctrinal claims about Jesus Christ and His Church. When we think of the phrase “I believe” we often think of it as mentally assenting to some truth or fact. I believe Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead just like I believe that George Washington was our first president. But if we treat belief this way, then faith can become static or lost.
When I taught my boys how to swim, I put them in shallow water and showed them the mechanics of swimming. I held them on the surface and had them perform the necessary motions and then I let them go. They swam joyfully across one shallow end to another proud of their ability. I believed in their skills, they did too.
And then we discussed going into the deep end…
Suddenly their confidence and conviction were tested. They knew they should do it, but they were understandably frightened. So they remained content showing off their aquatic chops in the kiddie pool. I promised them I would not let them drown, I was right there to pull them up. But they continued to resist, so I patiently nudged and waited until they were ready. We did this back and forth together for quite awhile until one day it just kind of clicked with them (bribing them with a trip to Dairy Queen might have had something to do with it, but that actually doesn’t help my point here).
It wasn’t until they jumped in over their heads that they really believed they could swim. All that time in the shallow end, confident in their proficiency, was just talk. In the deep end, they put their faith to the test.
Are we remaining in the shallow end while we say “I believe” at Mass? God doesn’t just want our assent, he wants our life. God wants us to go deep into our baptismal waters and surrender all to Him. Being a Christian is not merely making statements of faith – it’s a full-bodied leap of faith. And as I was there for my children in the pool, God is ready to pull us up when we start to sink.