In paragraphs 15, 16, and 17 of Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis explains how faith is not merely assent to a set of beliefs, but trust in a person; and specifically in the person of Jesus Christ; and specifically in the love of Christ and his Father for us; and specifically because the Father shows his love for us by raising Jesus from the dead and promising to do the same for us. Jesus not only tells us that he loves us, but he is willing to die for us; and his Father in Heaven raises him. He loves and has the power to love truly.
And then, at the end of paragraph 17, Pope Francis goes on to say something truly key:
Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships. But if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true, a love capable of delivering the bliss that it promises.
This notion that God is remote seems to be pretty generally shared. One of my commenters was surprised when I suggested that Christian faith is faith in a person who has acted in history, both in my personal history and in the history of the world at large. In his view, faith was blind acceptance in a set of propositions. What a bloodless, unsatisfying thing faith would be if that were the case!
Even Christians can act like God is remote. I’ve been a Christian for virtually all of my life; and I can remember large swathes of time when I seldom thought of God or Jesus from one day to the next. However I thought of him, practically speaking I treated him as remote. And yet God is here, now, where I’m sitting and where you’re reading. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that God, as pure Being itself, is the source and ground for all other being. When I look out the window at the mountains across the way, I think of geology and earthquakes and plate tectonics and erosion; but I also think of God sustaining those mountains in place from moment to moment. In their way, by what they are they speak of the perfection of God and so give him glory; I like to think of them as the crystallized love of God.
The pope goes on,
Christians, on the contrary, profess their faith in God’s tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.
It’s possible to know the presence of God’s love and to keep it in mind; see, for example, Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God.