Saturday, January 31, 2015

What is Hope For

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?  Do you not yet have faith?”  Mark 4:40

“Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.”
― Thomas Merton

We encounter contrasts in faith – the realization of what is hoped for – in our Hebrew Bible and New Testament readings.  First, we meet up with Abraham on the verge of offering his only son up as a sacrifice.  The New American Bible notes on this passage inform us that Isaac’s “return from death” is seen as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. 

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”  (Hebrews 11:8)  The word dead is used figuratively of Isaac, since he did not really die but he was near death as his father prepares to sacrifice his son.   Abraham passed that strong sense of faith along to Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, who had faith in the future fulfillment of God’s promise and renewed this faith when near death – despite the fact that they NEVER saw God nor did they know him personally.  He had no “evidence of things not seen.”

The disciples depicted in the Good News according to Mark have the benefit (proof/evidence) of a personal, actual relationship with Jesus.  Yet they fail to reflect the depth of faith expressed in the actions of Abraham.   Today, they are on a boat with Jesus fully present to them.  Yet, as the storms and seas churn, they have no reserve of faith from which to draw.  They fear that they are near death – they probably think they are closer than Isaac was on the altar five or six centuries earlier.

Where are you on the chain of evidence to support your faith?  Do you desire or demand proof that God exists to calm the stormy seas of your life?  If God acted in that fashion, would we even know what force was at work?  Or are you as confident as Abraham that God will make the impossible possible in your life? 

Our faith is hard to defend in the court of law or the court of public opinion.  We have no evidence or arguments to put forth.  Well-meaning people can even disagree on core elements of that faith.  Just look at how the history of the Church is marked by words like “schism,” “reformation” and more.  
For every gain in deep certitude there is a corresponding growth of superficial "doubt." This doubt is by no means opposed to genuine faith, but it mercilessly examines and questions the spurious "faith" of everyday life, the human faith which is nothing but the passive acceptance of conventional opinion.  (Thomas Merton)

PS:  Happy 100th Anniversary of birth to Thomas Merton who helped unpack today’s biblical suitcase.

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