The author of the Book of Wisdom made a comment on the foolishness of the people who failed to see the greatness of the Creator who created this beautiful world. ‘For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists, not did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world. If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. And if people were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is the one who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.’(Wisdom 13: 1 – 5)
It has been generally believed that we do not see God face to face while living in this world. The Israelites in the Old Testament saw God indirectly: in a bright cloud, in a pillar of fire, smoke, in the three mysterious visitors who visited Abraham. St. John taught us that no one has ever seen God. (John 1:18) Jesus was God in the flesh, but when His contemporaries looked at him, they saw a man.
But St. John also taught us that one day we will see God as He is. ‘Dear beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall later be has not yet come to light. We know that when it comes to light we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’(1 John 3:2)
St. Paul taught us the same belief, ‘Love never fails. Prophecies will cease, tongues will be silent, knowledge will pass away. Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect. When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways aside. Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.’ (1 Corinthians 13: 8 – 12)
From the teachings of St. John and St. Paul, we know that we should be filled with hope because one day we will not need any symbols, any pillars of fire, not even any sacraments, because we will see God face to face exactly as He is.
For the people who do not believe in God, they think death is the end of their life. Unlike them, we believe that our life does not end in a cemetery. We believe that death is the end of this earthly life but the beginning of a new and everlasting life. Here is where our faith comes in. St. Paul said, ‘Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.’ (Hebrews 11:1) There is a limit to the human power to reason; but faith goes beyond our feeble intellects. St. Thomas Aquinas said in His Summa Theologica, “Faith has to do with truths that surpass the comprehension of reason.”
People without faith are generally sad, disturbed, disappointed, and afraid when they face difficult situations, especially when death is imminent. They have nothing to fall back on. On numerous occasions, Jesus asks us not to be afraid and He teaches us not to let our hearts be troubled. (John 14:1) And so with our faith, we are not troubled by pain, chronic sickness, financial loss, anxiety, war, death, etc.
It is faith that makes us realize there is a powerful Creator who created this amazing world. It is faith that makes us understand we should worship the Creator, and not the created. It is faith that makes us feel God is close to us although we do not see Him. It is faith that makes us feel a sense of security knowing that we can depend on Him. It is faith that makes us see the current events that are happening in this world in the light of eternity. It is faith that makes us act as if we have already seen God face to face, from indirect seeing to unimpaired vision, while still living in this fleeting world.
The best demonstration of faith perhaps can be found in the Gospel of Luke when Mary gave her short but powerful response to Angel Gabriel. “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.’ (Luke 1:38) And so we have learned from Mary’s example that faith is an assent to God’s invitation. There are no if’s, but’s, or maybe’s. It is not easy. To accept His invitation, we have to accept Jesus although we have not seen Him before. We have to trust His teachings although we are aware that His teachings are not popular in this modern world. We have to accept this man Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth about two thousand years ago, as the truth, the way, and the life – the very center of our lives. We have to follow His teachings although we may sometimes be ridiculed for trying to keep and practice our faith.
People whose lives have been characterized by faith live in this world but do not belong to this world. They have the ability to demonstrate different facets of faith. They do this by frequent reception of the sacraments, by prayer, by showing a cheerful, loving, and forgiving personality. They willingly take up their daily crosses without complaining. Every day they surrender to the will of God with perseverance.
The Catholic Church teaches us that faith is a gift from God. Many times after Jesus has performed a miracle He would say, “Your faith has saved you.” We must therefore constantly pray that we are worthy of this gift as it is essential for our salvation.
The wise men from the East followed the star and eventually found the new born King of all kings and worshipped Him. Like them, we also follow a star in this life journey. This star is our faith. If we follow that star daily, one day this star will no longer be necessary. There will not be any indirect seeing because we will see Him as He is. We can also love Him and stay with Him, not for a very long time but for all eternity – for as long as God remains God!