Spirituality of the Readings
Can You Believe it?
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So says the Letter to the Hebrews (Hb 11:1).
So there is the answer. But what does it mean? We can arrive at a partial answer at least.
Start simply: do you have any question that various cities around the world exist, even though you have never actually walked in them? Moscow, Katmandu, Tokyo, Madrid, etc? And, can you make plans to meet with a colleague for dinner without having to worry whether that person is just a figment of your imagination? If the answer to these is. of course, then you have “conviction of things (or persons) not seen.” You are using a kind of faith.
This ground-level meaning is very simple, and perhaps doesn’t need mention. You believe your spleen exists, but so what? But when you say “God exists,” a non-believer might reply, “so what?” Maybe there has to be more than ground-level faith in life.
That “more” means relationship.
With a close friend, for instance, you have an affiliation with someone who will be loyal to you, will be true to the promise contained in friendship, as you will try to be also. You have some confidence that your friend’s love will not expire.
God will make things better but not yet.This is a deeper level of faith, and lets be very clear that it includes moments when just the opposite seems true, when it feels like the friend has turned away. Some of us avoid having close relationships altogether just for fear of being deserted! Understandable as this is, all of us need to gradually and prudently open ourselves to deeper friendships. We need and want to love and be loved. A series of hurts could prove that you were wrong, and then it is wiser to re-negotiate or else move away. Even so, with time, you might learn that good faith does exist, and good people do too, and this is a deeper level of faith.
Our faith in God involves this deepest kind of faith, including the fear of abandonment.
In the First Reading. A man called Habakkuk speaks to God with great emotion:
“How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen. Why do you let me see ruin? Why must I look at misery?”
The faithful God answers in a lengthy and encouraging reply. “The vision still has its time,” he says, “presses on to fulfillment, and it will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come.” God is saying, “I understand your sorrow and I will make things better.”
Obviously the big problem is “wait for it.” God will make things better but not yet.
Our insides shout, “Not yet! what are you talking about? Why don’t you help us right now? Why do you delay and give suffering such a victory?”
But maybe the way God develops faith is by delaying!
Look at the apostles in the Gospel. They say to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” And they imply, do it now.
But maybe our souls are only able to reach out for the fullness of belief (relationship) by a long process of opening up. Sometimes God is waiting patiently until we are ready with a car-load or a teaspoon-full of faith.
Wait and be patient! That is what faith is.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University