At baptism, God infuses the gift of faith into a person’s soul. From that moment, the person does indeed have faith, which can never be rescinded. As the individual matures, so too must the understanding, depth and dynamic of the faith that has been divinely given; and as we grow, so must our faith.

None of us wears the same size clothes we wore when we were an infant.

Every gift must be appropriately incorporated into the life of the person who receives it, otherwise it will be nothing more than a one-time significant “something,” currently resting “somewhere,” forgotten of its meaning and purpose. Put simply, baptism is not merely the graced starting point of receiving and having faith, but it finds its truest incarnation in the person’s life of faith and teaching the faith to others.

But why does the prospect of teaching the faith fill so many of the baptized, who have the faith, with anxiety? Perhaps it is connected to a long-standing tendency of having rather than living.

Simply having something without knowing the reason for its existence demands nothing. In other words, the one who has faith must do something with it, since “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Js 2:17).

A person who knows and understands, to whatever degree possible, the purpose and significance of his faith, is compelled to engage it. Familiarity with the fundamentals of the faith is essential. Without knowledge of the basics, the ability to live the faith authentically and consistently, let alone teach it to others, is impossible.

As St. Joseph instructed the child Jesus in the elementary components of carpentry while he was growing up in Nazareth and as seminarians learn the fundamentals of theology and the basics of priestly ministry during their time of formation so every baptized person is divinely commissioned to come to know evermore the faith they profess each Sunday during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Through a commitment to prayer and study, on one’s own and with one’s family, the person’s faith deepens overtime in his love of God in Jesus Christ, while this ever-deepening love of Him incites, directs and compels an incarnate love for one’s neighbor.

Do we desire to live a life of genuine, sacrificial love? Let us look to our faith. For as St. Paul reminds each one of us: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and 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).

If we are to teach the faith, we are to live the faith; and if we are to live the faith, we are to know the faith. Read the Sacred Scriptures and The Catechism of the Catholic Church with your family. Pray. Talk with your pastor. Come to know, love and serve the truth by becoming familiar with the faith that has been gifted to you by God. Demand of yourself to be a student of Jesus Christ – the Divine Teacher – who instructs us in the ways of God so as to lead us back to the Eternal Father.

For if a person desires to be one who lives the faith and not merely has it, he must first be taught by God so that he may live according to the will of the teacher and, by living, teach the faith to others. Baptism, then, is that moment of divine grace when the Lord plants the faith in the soul and ignites the charge that is meant to spread like wildfire a life of faith, totally consuming the mind and heart of the person and the lives of the those to whom he comes close – to the praise and glory of God and the salvation of souls.

—Father James Dodson is vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Fall 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.