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There is a nice summation of what faith is in the second reading from today’s Mass:
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 1: 1)*
In his homily, Bishop van den Hende took the opportunity to delve a bit deeper in the definition of faith, and one of the points he raised was the difference between the Old and New Testaments when it comes to faith. In the Old Testament, faith is chiefly about trust in God and the things He does. In the New Testament, the meaning of faith shifts more to knowing, as a sort of completion of trust; we still trust in God, of course, but our faith is strengthened by what we know of Him through Jesus Christ, His Son.
Looking back at the sentence from the Letter to the Hebrews, we may see a sort of basic evolution of faith. We start with hope, we grow to trust and finally we know. That evolution is not only visible in the history of humanity as a whole, but also in each of us
individually. These three steps are steps we all take, I believe. At least I did. The sense of hope, for example, had been there for years before I even considered walking into a church for anything else but sightseeing. I wanted to believe, but had nothing to ground that belief in.
Later, as I got to know the Catholic faith, I found myself able to put some measure of trust into the Church and so also into God. Trust and knowledge go hand in hand, strengthening each other, being each other’s basis, so to speak. If we know what we trust in, trust grows stronger. Hope too, grows in depth as trust and knowledge increase. After all, when we learn more, gain more knowledge, we get to know more of what we hope for, and so hope increases.
So faith is never as one-dimensional as some people want to have us believe. It is far more than a factual belief in the existence of someone or something.
*I used the translation from the New American Bible, instead of the New Jerusalem Bible, which I generally use in this blog, simply because this translation appealed to me more.