Sister Johanna’s second post in this series.
Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).
If you weren’t here for yesterday’s post I hope you will scroll back to it to catch up with us. We’re looking at the relationship between the notion of religious faith and the notion of “proving” unseen realities – it all seemed problematic for me when I first read the verse from Hebrews given above. “We’re not meant to prove anything; we’re meant to consent to mystery,” I ranted.
Then, I remembered that frequently when I am doing my lectio, a problem surfaces within the text that seems unsolvable at first. But after I spend time with the scripture passage, reading and praying, the problem resolves by means of a sort of journey I take into the text, led by the Holy Spirit. In this case, I now found that the journey involved pondering the words at the end of the quotation given here: ‘realities that are unseen.’ I didn’t know why at that point, but those words seemed important and I kept repeating them slowly in my thoughts. There is, I find, a balm in this – almost as though my mind craves the nourishment that the words give even before it is able to penetrate to their deeper meaning.
‘Realities that are unseen.’ As I repeated these words, I began to reflect that unseen realities are not easy to live with, especially for us in our day. We’re so scientifically minded. For us, the word ‘reality’ applies mainly to what can be seen or touched or heard; we talk about ‘evidence-based medicine,’ for example–we need evidence that we can actually observe in order to decide on the right medicine. So, the senses determine what we consider to be reality most of the time. What is unseen can make us uncomfortable. We often decide therefore that unseen things don’t exist.
Then it occurred to me that we do live with some unseen realities–constantly and fairly comfortably. They don’t always discommode us. Take love, for instance. Love itself is unseen but we know with every fibre of our being that it is real. While we know that love is forever seeking to give evidence of its existence through words and actions that are self-giving, even self-sacrificial, we also know that underneath these see-able expressions of love, on a level that is unseen, love exists as a reality.
Faith, I reflected, is like that. In fact, it is extremely like love, I realised, and is inseparable from love. Indeed, it is informed by love. My problem with the scriptural text from Hebrews began to ease as I reflected that although faith is certainly about consenting to the truth of theological propositions that are too mysterious to grasp fully, faith is primarily a loving relationship with the unseen God. I mentally rewrote the passage from Hebrews: “Only a loving relationship with the unseen God can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.” I felt that I was moving closer to an understanding of this text.
Let’s stay with these ideas for the day and find out what they evokes in us. I hope you will come back tomorrow for the continuation of our reflection.