Faith: conviction about things we do not see...

Image: StevesDevotions

With all the material in this coming Sunday's gospel for preachers to work with, it's possible that the second reading of the day may go unnoticed. For that reason, and others, I'm grateful to have come across a timely reflection on Sunday's passage from Hebrews, from John Kavanaugh, SJ.

Sometimes, when facing our most perplexing problems, we need to let go of the very thing we're convinced will help us resolve whatever the dilemma might be. What we pray for and hold on to might be just the thing we need to surrender.

Perhaps Kavanaugh's story will strike a chord in your history as it does in mine.
What is faith? The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.”

It is not a function of organic vision. Rather, it is an act of seeing in trust.

Long ago, when I spent a month working at the “house of the dying” in Calcutta, I sought a sure answer to my future. On the first morning I met Mother Teresa after Mass at dawn.

She asked, “And what can I do for you?” I asked her to pray for me. “What do you want me to pray for?” I voiced the request I had borne thousands of miles: “Pray that I have clarity.”

She said no. That was that.

When I asked why, she announced that clarity was the last thing I was clinging to and had to let go of. When I commented that she herself had always seemed to have the clarity I longed for, she laughed: “I have never had clarity; what I’ve always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust.”

Thus Mother Teresa became for me a member of that cloud of witnesses to which the Letter to the Hebrews refers: heroes of faith, who had conviction about things unseen.
For the other scriptures you'll hear this weekend, for commentary on them and for tips to help children prepare to hear the word, see this earlier post.

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  1. This is on a bit of a tangent- but it has to do with people, seen and unseen. I recently had to go to the hospital with a badly broken arm, and I was thankful for the skilled and kind care I received. But later I had cause to realise that I only met a few of those involved in my care: there were others in the 'background' like the radiologist who reported on the x-rays, who I never met. I was fortunate that a whole team, seen and unseen, involved in my care.

  2. I'd say your comment is closer to spot on than being tangential!

  3. Great post. Love the story about Mother Theresa. I have found much comfort in leaving everything up to God once I was able to let go of needs I did not have, clarity being one of them and others being the ability to direct my own life, planning (in working extensively with Muslims in the Middle East I learned to put aside planning since many would not do it because they felt it was taking decision-making out of the hands of Allah), understanding the why of everything or even the how and what in some cases, predictability, and even (perhaps especially) logic. All those "needs" were making life complicated and difficult. Without them, I have what the psychologists call the constituted other (in my case, God), on whom I can rely fully for direction and care-taking. So what else do we really "need"?

  4. I had to laugh at the simple direct response of Mother Teresa saying NO. The story gives a whole new meaning to what I have heard are the three answers to prayer; yes NO and wait.
    Maybe I will be a little less resentful when I sense that the answer is NO and picture a diminutive wise woman laughing in faith!

  5. When Mother Theresa asked what the man wanted her to pray for, I automatically filled in my own answer and then her response was to me and the desire of my heart. Of course her 'No' was a surprise but her explanation 'to let go of what we cling to and to Trust' was amazing. I would suggest folks fill in their own response to Mother Teresa and see how her answer is still perfect.


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