Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hearing of Faith

This only would I learn of you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  --Galatians 3:2 (Douay-Rheims 1899)

Scientific tangibility is reality for most people.  If we want to know what is real or what can be believed with certainty, we turn to science (along with all its laws.)  Scientific validity creates believable fact, a world upon which we can base our life.  An adherence to such certainty is the center piece of belief in the present age.  In the days of Bible writing the Law of Moses had this same solidity of reality and certainty.  It was deeply believed that violating the Law of Moses would lead to your demise.  Being a good person and following the letter of the Law brought you righteousness, or togetherness with God.  There was a "legal tangibility" that made clear how one could and should live.  Even when God felt absent you could continue through the motions by following the law and what you easily could know by listening to the rabbi.  Then entered a short time of The Spirit.

In the book of Acts the Holy Spirit arrived on the gathered masses on Pentecost.  While not deconstructed or destroyed, the chains to the Law of Moses were loosed.  The believer was set free to believe, to trust, to have faith in a deeper reality: that God eternally loves and redeems wrong and the wronged.  This reality is more like an intangible fact -- the base on which science or legalities rest.  How do we know it is there, or real?  Because we trust that it is so -- convinced that the mystery of God is holding up the world and its future whether we can reach out and touch it, dissect and understand it, or not.  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?  A modern rewrite of the verse would be "Did you receive the Spirit by the certainty of scientific method, or by hearing of faith?"

Many today write off faith.  If it can't be satisfactorily proven, measured, or the workings thereof elucidated it is of no value.  Faith, the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, the Church, and even God get tossed.  Yet, if these are all tossed then so must all their fruits including "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)  Having experienced and witnessed each of these "fruits of the Spirit" I cannot conceive of or agree to live in a world with them outlawed by a law or a science that does not account for what I have heard of faith: Christ died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

God of faith, stand by us when uncertainty and other unknowing voices try to convince us that our beliefs are "silly superstitions."  Help us stand near you, O God as well.  Amen.

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