The substance of things hoped for

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2019

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

If we “buy into” the populist theology of our day, we are proscribing to the position that all things must be proven as having some form of physical substance. Legions of adherents seemingly follow the contradictions found within the scientific world and the purported world of faith.

When Saint Paul wrote to the Hebrews, he presented his direction on what constitutes the substance of Christian faith. It is here we may find something more than having an ignorant faith, as he provides for its application in our understanding, when he said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Of the many parts of his personality, Paul shows us an essential understanding of the base nature of our intellects.

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Perhaps it is from our early ancestors; perhaps rooted in our very creation, let us understand that we are quite fearful creatures. Attempting to know the unknown is, frequently, anathema to us. Who amongst us does not ascribe a cloudy day to fearful events, or a sunny day to joy? Each has neither the propensity, nor the portent to affect either. Such is our constitutional makeup. Good things happen on the darkest of days, and terrible things happen in brilliant sunshine.

It is a human truth that the vast majority of us hope for something better in our lives. We can well identify with the lowly peasant, who living in the middle-ages, was eking out a life in the slime, muck and mire. We can well identify with those living in similar conditions amongst us today.

However, as those who have been given so much, we seek more. It is here we find the fine line drawn between need and consumer’s gluttony. And, it is here we find the slippery slope between an acceptance of the source of the gifts and the gracious generosity which provided them, or ungracious denial and self-aggrandizement.

Yes, we hope. So often it is for the substance and stuff of our time here on this earth. A bigger house, a better car, more salubrious quantities of money, all circle like flies as needed substances around our heads. In our furious disregard, unseen notions regularly rear an ugly head. We are approached by the difficult concepts centering around an afterlife and salvation. Each of these requires, not merely infers, our thoughts, meditations and actions. It requires our acceptance of, as Paul told us, “the evidence of things not seen.”

Consider our abilities to identify a thought. Of the trillions upon trillions of internal thoughts made each hour by humankind, what number is captured? The answer is zero. Oh yes, some few may be retained, as written or collected in a database, but the essential thoughts are from a non-physical process. No matter how we explain the various chemical synapsis exploding within the gray matter above our necks, the very origin is beyond our full understanding. Yes, the mind is a terrible thing to waste.

We cannot find the evidence for many of the eternal things hoped for, for the evidence is not of this world. It requires, of us, a belief in the power of another world; the world of the supernatural. It requires, of us, a belief in a power beyond ourselves, without substance, without limits. For Christians this is the power of God, through his Son, Jesus Christ; for this is the substance of the Faith.