19th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  This quote from the Letter to the Hebrews is the primary scriptural definition of faith.  In this Year of Faith and in this time where faith is so greatly needed, it is wonderful to hear these words again.  “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen,” has been a guiding light in my life answering so many questions and taking me ever more deeply into the mystery of God.  I love this definition of faith.  I am only afraid that it might not work anymore.

Let me tell you a story.  I was driving back from a service trip from Washington, DC and a young adult I was with said, “I don’t get this whole God thing.”  I said, “What don’t you get?  And she said, “Anything.”  This took me aback some, and so I said, “In the beginning, there was nothing.”  It was a long ride and I figured we should start there.  And we all had a memorable conversation, and she asked me the best theological question I had been asked in years, “Were Adam and Eve cavemen?”  Have you ever heard that question?  Last night, I was with a bunch of priests at a Reconciliation Service and I asked them, “Were Adam and Eve cavemen and they were all like, “Uhhh…”

And yet, we can only learn by what we have been taught.  And as the Madonna that is not the Virgin Mary said, “We are living in a material world.”  We don’t have the luxury of not answering that question because we are surrounded by a world that looks for things.   We begin with what we can experience directly, concretely then makes our decisions from there.  Even our language betrays this.  How often have you heard it said, “Seeing is believing.”  But, of course, seeing is the opposite of believing.  If I am standing right in front of you and see you, I am not making a leap of faith that you are there. 

Now look at our classic definition again: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  That seems quite contradictory to our experience.  In a world of CSI, where everything is proved and all mysteries are resolved in 58 minutes with four commercial breaks, what is hoped for cannot be considered real and what is not seen certainly does not pass for evidence.  When Abraham received the message that he should venture into a strange land at an old age and would become the father of descendants as numerous as the sands of the sea shore, he took off because he found the giver of the message, God, to be trustworthy.  If it happened today, everyone would have told him to see a financial planner and probably a psychologist.  

Yet, seeing is believing is not how we completely live our lives and I would argue that is it not how we live the most important moment of our lives.  What if every moment or feeling in your life had to be proved?  What if every day you had to wonder if your friends are still your friends?  What if we could never share anything important because we could not be 100% sure we could trust people?  What if we feared that everyone we loved does not love us?  Our lives would be skeptical, isolated, lonely and dark.

I don’t believe that is any way to live. And I don’t think it is the way we live. It is part of our human condition to rely on what is not seen, to make real what is hoped for.  Reaching out in friendship, trusting another, loving and risking is how we live our lives and what accounts for our happiness.  And although we may try to be too careful at times, deep down we know the primary mover in our lives is precisely the unseen things of love, friendship and peace.  We know that is what we value most completely.  What truly grounds us is not the easily perceivable and the provable, but the really real, the things we know to the bottom of our souls, that we love and are beloved.  Doesn’t it make sense that if our human condition, despite the risks it requires, is based on the making what is hoped for real and trusting in the evidence that is not seen, then ultimately we are grounded in a force unseen yet moves us, that is true and not visible?  That is love?  God has designed us to find God.

Knowing our nature and our skepticism all too well, God did not leave is to be discovered in the beauty of nature or the joy of our relationships although God was always present there.  Instead, he sent the visible image of the invisible God in Jesus Christ.  So sure He was of his Father, so certain he was of God’s life being lived in him, that Jesus is our true definition of faith.  If we ever had faith as Jesus had faith we would never fail in loving, friendship and trust.  He made the hoped for real by embodying it love. Peace and friendship.

In just a couple of minutes you will be asked to have that kind of faith. In the simple gifts brought forth of stiff bread and pretty good wine, we will be asked to believe in more.  We will be asked in faith to trust that those simple gifts are inhabited with Jesus Christ – that this is evidence of what is unseen.  If we cannot walk across the bridge of faith, we will chew on matzoth and drink some wine.  But with faith, we will be filled with Jesus Christ and be filled with divine love.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the former Jesuit Superior General summed up best what this life in faith means in this wonderful poem.  This is what it means to decide to have faith.

“Nothing is more practical than

finding God, than

falling in Love

in a quite absolute, final way.

 

What you are in love with,

what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.

It will decide

what will get you out of bed in the morning,

what you do with your evenings,

how you spend your weekends,

what you read, whom you know,

what breaks your heart,

and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

 

Fall in Love, stay in love,

and it will decide everything.”

Advertisements