Confronted with the miracle of life, with our bodies so well “knit together” (Psalm 139), many people conclude that human beings are animated by a kind of divine spark. It is surprising that our modern mentality, so strongly marked by science, comes to the same conclusions as the “medicine” of the Old Testament. Yes, according to the Bible, God gives a Breath to human beings, and in that Breath of life God can become present (see Genesis 2). Breath and Spirit are the same word in Biblical Hebrew.
The desire of believers is for God to dwell within us by his Spirit, “witnessing together with our spirit” (Romans 8:16) so that we can “join together with the Lord, forming one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).
If we have God in us, then, and everything seems to be already given, what use can there be of having faith?
During the recent European meeting in Brussels, Cardinal Danneels spoke to the participants in these terms: “I give thanks to God because every night, close to the Atomium, which is the symbol of human beings who investigate matter down to its depths, 40,000 young people came here to investigate the things of God. In the moments of silence at the heart of the celebrations, the Holy Spirit creates in us a hollow, a kind of little manger where the Child Jesus can be born.”
It is so easy to fill those “hollows” with artificial needs. That is perhaps why faith is essential: it unblocks the desires of the soul. Faith is a longing, “the assurance of what we hope for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In this way, it teaches the soul to desire. As Saint Augustine says, “By letting himself be longed for, God extends desire; by letting himself be desired, he extends the soul; by extending the soul, he makes it capable of receiving him” (Commentary on 1 John, 4, 6).
God’s presence in us is also a call. God calls us, not just to receive him, but “to be like him” (1 John 3:2). Already in the second century Saint Irenaeus of Lyons dared to state, “The Son of God became man so that man could become a Son of God” (Adversus haereses, III, 10, 2). Through the Son, the Spirit prepared to dwell within every human being: “The Spirit also came down upon the Son of God become Son of man, in this way becoming accustomed to dwell within the human race, to find rest among human beings” (III, 17, 1). Faith is the active participation of our desire in this transfiguration. It is the desire to become a son in the Son, to take an active part in the work of God.