Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Blessed Virgin Mary, Pillar of Strength

Lectionary: 340

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.

Our first readings during the weekdays of this  Ordinary Time of Year have been tracing the history of "the ancients," from Adam to Noah. And so today's first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews gives us the Christian summation of what we've heard so far: Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice; Enoch pleased God; and Noah reverently built an ark for the salvation of his household. They were people of faith. On Monday we'll begin another set of readings from the Book of Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus

Our Author describes faith as the "realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." During that first century of the Christian era, there was no question about the existence of God. Some might have claimed allegiance to many gods, others picked out one of the gods for special devotion, while Jews insisted there is only one God and that is Our God. 

In any case, there was no doubt among the many nations of the Roman Empire about the existence of God(s). Atheism would not appear until the seventeenth century; when philosophers had dismissed, and theologians had neglected, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. 

So our Divine Author does not describe faith as a clinging confidence in the One God who has revealed himself in Jewish history and the Person of Jesus, that God who thunders, "I will be your God and you shall be my people!" As far as I know, from my little knowledge of philosophy, this notion of faith as a "personal relationship with Jesus" did not appear before the Methodist movement and the Great Awakenings in America. 

Faith: it's not about what you know but who you know

Many people still like to point to our well-ordered universe as proof -- or at least a demonstration -- of God's existence, that God who is all-powerful and certainly able to design, create and maintain an infinitely complex universe such as our own. With wonder and joy they ask, "What are the odds of such a phenomenon just happening?" It's a fun argument, I think, but not persuasive. Even if this wonderful God made the Universe, does he know or care about me? 

The persuasion to believe has to touch not the mind but the frightened, bewildered human heart. It must come through personal witness. Reasoned arguments mean nothing to the fearful. 

I came to faith when I met people who were happy and coping well enough in a chaotic world. I said to myself, "Their God is working for them; mine is not working for me." And then I listened to their testimony. In some ways we worshiped the same god, the name was the same. In some cases we attended the same church! 

But I had to hear their stories and accept their credibility before I would ask "Our God" to take my hand and lead me out of confusion. Eventually I would believe that Jesus of Nazareth deserved my complete confidence. Even on the cross he did not despair of the Father's fidelity; and that fidelity was proven in the Resurrection. His enemies regarded him as a fool but I have seen his foolishness was wiser than human wisdom. 

This man is worthy of my complete confidence, even of my adoration as the One True God. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.