20 October: Realities that are Unseen, IV.

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

As I ponder this wonderful line from the Letter to the Hebrews and dwell with it, I begin to relearn what faith is about, what the word means.  I think back to the time in my life when faith came alive for me.  It happened over a period of some months when I was a very young adult.  There were stages to this, and the first was that it gradually came home to me that I didn’t know whether I believed in God or not – indeed, I wasn’t even sure what it meant to say that I was a Christian.  I saw that although I was attending church on Sundays I did so only because as an infant I had been carried to church, and ever since then I had not been given a choice in the matter.  But I could see clearly by that time that this was not good enough.  ‘Either figure out what this church business is all about,’ I said to myself, ‘or give it up.  But don’t go on like this, going to church as if you were a believer when you are actually clueless.’   So I decided to give my religion one last chance.  (Actually, I had never even given it a first chance, but in my habitual arrogance I was not really thinking clearly).  Thus the second stage in my relationship to faith began: I undertook to study the tenets of Catholic belief and to find out what it really meant to be a Christian.  

I can see now that this undertaking was itself prompted by God because otherwise it wouldn’t even have occurred to me: there was little true religious belief present in my heart.  Indeed, my ‘faith’ at that time, was faith in the mores and (false) promises of fulfilment offered by our secular culture.  My faith was also faith in myself, rather than in God.  But there was at least a pinch of true faith mixed in with the false; I did, after all, give some sort of homage to the idea that ‘this church business’ might have something worthwhile to offer and I would do well to have a look and see if I could find it.  But, at bottom, I must confess, I thought that my study would end with me dusting off my hands and becoming a completely secular non-believer, pursuing, as did so many of my peers, the allurements of pleasure and materialism which popular culture’s media-driven propaganda constantly advertised.  

But the Lord had something else in mind, clearly, and he who takes the initiative in love, also responds to our smallest overture (and my overture was extremely small) with an overwhelming display of love.   As my study of Christianity continued, some of my smug self-reliance began to give way.  I began to face how deeply needy I was on the spiritual level, and how much I needed God.  And this, in turn, led me into to a deep interior relationship with the Lord.  A whole world was opening up.  I found that ‘the existence of realities that are unseen’ were beginning – most wonderfully – to be proved to me.  The God, whom I barely knew, treated me like the prodigal daughter and ran to meet me with lavish experiences of joy.  At length, not only did I begin to practice my faith with conviction, I also developed an intense desire to give myself to the Lord fully.  And that was the genesis of my vocation to be Benedictine nun.  Decades have passed since I professed vows as a nun, and it is even more obvious to me today than on my profession day that the unseen realities are the most real realities that exist.  

My lectio questions were quickly turning into reasons for joy by now.  These reflections reaffirmed that faith – this love-relationship with the unseen God – does indeed guarantee the deepest blessings.  Faith is not merely a default setting for the times when the great mysteries of religion loom large.  Faith is an all-the-time setting.  Faith has positive content: it is the up-and-running relationship between God the Father and me – God, who is wholly mysterious in essence, but who is infinitely and infallibly real, infinitely and infallibly “there,” holding out the blessings that we hope for.   

Through this lectio journey, I rediscovered that faith is also the word we use to talk about our relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who really was seen in his lifetime and now, through the Gospel, shows me the way to the Father and challenges me to see him, that I may see the Father; faith is the word used to talk about the mission of the Church as the mediator of Christ to me in her teaching authority, in the sacraments, and in the union of believers when they gather in his name and among whom Jesus promises to be – and is – present.  Finally, faith is something for which I thank God because the word means that God has me and I have him in a relationship of love.  Faith, inseparable from love, does guarantee all blessings; it is about the unseen realities, it reveals the existence of them, and has proved to me that they are real.  

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

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2 Comments

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', lectio divina, Mission

2 responses to “20 October: Realities that are Unseen, IV.

  1. I’ve been rereading Pope Francis’s encyclical on faith ‘Lumen Fidei’ recently, and this aligns very closely with his reflections. He says how faith is born of an encounter of love, and how faith is a light itself, that illuminates because it is tied to love, and how this love is rooted in the past (both our individual history with God and the history of the Church/Israel) and illuminates the future.

    I also studied this passage some years ago, and found that the words translated as “guarantee” and “proof” here, have the sense of being title deeds, proving and embodying ownership of property that is not currently present. It’s very similar to the image in Ephesians 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22 of the Holy Spirit as the deposit/guarantee/pledge/payment of the things to come.

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