To sustain our missionary fervour, Pope Francis proposes not only the anchor of hope, but also he strengthens it by explicating the various aspects of ‘faith.’ Firstly, EG interprets faith as also believing in God who “truly loves us, that He is alive, that He is mysteriously capable of intervening, that He does not abandon us and that He brings good out of evil by His power and His infinite creativity.” (# 278a)
Secondly the EG invites us to nurture a strong faith also in the Gospel when it tells us that the kingdom of God is already present in this world like the small seed, the small measure of leaven, and the good seed growing amid the weeds (Mt. 13:24-33).
Thirdly, our faith should develop in us the attitude of ‘interior certainty’ that God is able to act in every situation, even amid apparent setbacks…that all those who entrust themselves to God in love will bear good fruit…No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted… Sometimes it seems that our work is fruitless, but mission is not like a business transaction or investment, or even a humanitarian activity. It may be that the Lord uses our sacrifices to shower blessings in another part of the world which we will never visit. (# 279).
Finally, this conviction calls for “firm trust in the Holy Spirit, who “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26), who works as He wills, when He wills and where He wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place” (#280).
Now, it is inspiring to notice that all these four points are found in Gandhi too. Firstly, Gandhi firmly believed in God as an overarching Power, mysteriously working in the world. He is, for Gandhi “an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything… and is purely benevolent.” For he saw clearly “that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, and in the midst of darkness light persists” (VT 103-104). Just in the month preceding the inauguration of his campaign of Civil Disobedience in 1930, there broke out an epidemic that took away three children successively in his Ashram. Gandhi’s faith in God’s power was so unshakable that he took it merely as a means of purification rather than a blow to his naturopathy.
Secondly, Gandhi did it with reference to traditional allegories like Gajendra and Graha: “The moral of the story is that God never fails his devotees in the hour of trail. The test of faith is that having done our duty we must be prepared to welcome whatever He may send joy as well as sorrow, good luck… if mishaps do come He will not bewail His fate but bear it with an undisturbed peace of mind and joyous resignation to His Will” (SS I: 47).
Thirdly, Gandhi always relied on the interior certitude rather than reason or sense: “This belief in God has to be based on faith which transcends reason… A living immovable faith is all that is required for reaching the full spiritual height attainable by human beings… exterior proof is not of much avail if any at all. We must ever fail to perceive Him through the senses, because he is beyond them. We can feel Him if we will but withdraw ourselves from the senses” (Truth 31-32).
Finally, as to the faith in the Spirit’s functioning, Gandhi’s famous “inner voice” is a handy proof. “The ‘inner voice’ is something which cannot be described in words. But sometimes we have a positive feeling that something in us prompts us to do a certain thing. The time when I learnt to recognize this Voice, I may say, the time when I started praying regularly” (Prayer 65). About the way how he took a decision, regarding the fast in the Jail, he said: “I saw no form. I have never tried, for I have always believed God to be without form. But what I did hear was like a Voice from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice definitely speaking to me, and irresistible. The determination was made accordingly, the date and the hour of the fast were fixed. Joy came over me” (Truth 28).
Gandhi believed in the constant guidance of the Spirit so firmly that he was always content with the ‘one step,’ at a time. “The impenetrable darkness that surrounds us is not a curse, but a blessing. He has given us power to see only the step in front of us, and it should be enough if Heavenly light reveals that step to us. We can then sing with Newman, ‘One step enough for me.’ And we may be sure from our past experience that the next step will always be in view” (Truth 33). Just as Pope Francis, Gandhi also held that “God is the help of the helpless. If you would ask Him to help you, you would go to Him in all your nakedness, approach Him without reservations, also without fear or doubts as to how He can help a fallen being like you. He who has helped millions, who have approached Him, is He going to desert you? Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and everything will be added unto you” (Prayer 51).
Thus, it is clear the role of faith that EG emphasizes in the missionary’s life is equally highlighted by Gandhi in the satyagarahi’s life. One is evidently reinforced by the other!