Refection on 19th Sunday: 7th August 2022

Faith believes in the existence of realities that at present remain unseen

‘If a man born blind were told about the nature of the colour yellow, he would understand absolutely nothing, no matter how much instruction he received. Since he has never seen any colours, nor their like, he would not have the means to form a judgement about them. Only their names would be grasped, since the names are perceptible through hearing. Such is faith to the soul. It informs us of matters that we have never seen or known, either in themselves or in their likenesses.’1

‘When we hear that God is love, in faith we assent to that and by way of analogy we know something of what that means because we know what love is in us. But the boundary-less expanse of God’s love is infinitely beyond what we are able to comprehend. Like the person born blind who has no substantive knowledge of what the colour yellow is, we have no substantive knowledge of what the infinite love of God is. Faith is a kind of a paradoxical knowledge of a knowledge that passes beyond the frontiers of what the intellect can comprehend. But although it is beyond what the intellect can comprehend, through the gift of faith we know it’s true in some obscure, intimate manner. There’s a certain comfort level, as well there should be, in how we’ve internalised our understanding of God, through the scriptures, and through liturgy, through reflection, through prayer and through reading spiritual books. All this is real, it’s important. But God is asking us not depend on, or identify with what we’re capable of understanding, but rather identify with what we’re incapable of understanding.’2

In today’s second reading, St Paul focuses on a few familiar Old Testament people in search of their real homeland who “died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them.” That is our faith journey. And what is our true homeland? “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4) The path on our way home is ‘the transformative way of faith which welcomes unknowing and mystery. Faith is more how to believe than what to believe.’3

Adapted: [1] St. John of the Cross; [2] James Finley [3] Richard Rohr

Second Reading Hebrews 11:1-2.8-19

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended. It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.

It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.