“Faith is the (realization of/substance of) things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” --Hebrews 11: 2-3
On the 19th week of Ordinary Time my husband and I brought our daughter to church for the first time. As luck would have it, Fr. Tom was short of all kinds of help, and asked me to read--so I hobbled on up to the altar to have a look at the scripture for the day, only to find my favorite line in the Bible staring up at me, reminding me of the blessings Sarah and Abraham received.
Much as we had, bringing our child into the world after some struggles with faith.
I smiled to myself. Only God would nudge me in this way, our own private understanding.
But I wonder and pause now to consider a discussion I had with a fellow congregant after Mass--the different translations: realization vs substance.
I totally appreciate realization as the definition of faith. I am in the midst of a realization, about myself and the world, through the eyes of a child, vulnerable and new to everything. Faith is most often a realization, a sudden sense of things, a conversion moment. Sometimes this sudden sense is silly--I realized today I want to kiss the inventor of the drive through (anything!). Perfect for riding and calming a little one and getting things done. Depositing a check at the bank I though of all the mothers who may have had that moment of realization: I did not appreciate this like I do now. Sometimes it’s the sublime: the realization of how much I’m really capable of. Having faith in myself is a God-given grace.
Then there’s substance. Such a heavy word in philosophy and religion, conveying absolute presence. Faith as substance implies security and heft, a weightiness that’s unsurpassable.
We take for granted that we can see. I think of my father, struggling with his eyesight, and it saddens me to think he may not be able to do his favorite things: read the paper, go for joyrides with his family. Then I think of the ways we are blind to ourselves and each other, not with our eyes, but with our hearts and souls. It takes a lot to really see each other through our hang-ups and preconceptions. Maybe we do the same with ourselves and our faith.
The substance of things hoped for in my life right now is heavy. I hope the world for my daughter. I aim to inspire my students, and maintain my teaching goals. I want to write and inspire myself in the process. I want to create a family and community, little by little.
I guess I should think of what I can see with my eyes, heart and soul. It’s like anything else--move a little this way or that, and you gain perspective. Some of life’s experience draw us to new ground where we can see so much more. I think of my very first hike up Blood Mountain in Georgia: that first scramble up the incline, maneuvering over loose stone, until finally reaching Preacher’s Rock, jutting out over the rolling Appalachians. the pain and unfamiliarity in getting there gave way to the satisfaction of that view.
When we’re most nervous, lost, afraid--that perspective is the evidence, substance, ad realization of things hoped for. It may be unseen--but this perspective exists.