...having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have toward all the holy ones...
In Colossians 1:3, Paul tells his readers that he and Timothy continually give thanks to God for them. In this verse, he adds a reason for that thanksgiving: he has heard of their faith and love.
Let's focus on faith. The Greek word is pistis, and it denotes belief, confidence, and trust. It derives from the verb peithō, which means to be persuaded. A person who has faith, then, has been persuaded to accept something as true and to place his or her trust in something or someone.
Here Paul places his emphasis on the object of our faith. We believe en Christō Iēsou, in Christ Jesus. The preposition en is important here. It's just a little word that can be easily overlooked, but it can also pack a big punch of meaning because of its wide range of nuances. En can designate a point of respect or reference; we have faith with respect to Christ Jesus. The reference point of our faith is Jesus first and foremost. En can also suggest association, and indeed, faith does mean association, particularly a strong personal relationship with Jesus. Further, en can refer to a sphere, and this works as well when we think about how faith helps us enter into salvation history, into a new creation, into a share in God's divine life. Who would have thought one little preposition could point in so many fruitful directions?
We can gain additional insights into faith by reading the Catechism, which explains that “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (#150). In other words, our faith is first of all in Someone, namely, God. Then, because we trust God, we also fully accept everything He tells us.
The Catechism adds that “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him” (#153). But there is a human aspect to faith as well. We have to choose to accept God's gift and to fully submit our “intellect and will to God,” and that makes faith “an authentically human act...contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason” (#154).
To have faith, then, is both to receive and to give. God gives us the opportunity to enter into a relationship with Him, to become sons and daughters in the Son, to enter into His sphere. This is not something we could ever merit or provide for ourselves, but we must respond to God's invitation. We must choose to be persuaded, to have faith with respect to Jesus Christ our Lord, to put our trust in Him. We must give ourselves to Him as we receive His great gift of faith.