12 August 2007 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 11, 1-2 Faith and Reason
Let us talk about faith. The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews (11,1) says, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” ‘Realization’, as translated from the Greek word, hupostasis, means “a placing or setting under a substructure or foundation.” And ‘evidence’ comes from the Greek word, elengchos, meaning “a proof, or that by which a thing is tested.” In other words, faith is founded on truth, and comes from careful observation, using all available evidence and experience. Love for example is a truth in the realm of faith. The experience of friendships is evidence enough to testify to its truth.
Our modern notion of faith instinctively adopts the view of Immanuel Kant that faith begins where reason leaves off. It means that reality is divided into two. First, a world of quantifiable realities that can be covered by reason. In the University of the Philippines, for example, the idea of a ‘secular university’ means having nothing to do with religion: economics, anthropology, sociology, engineering, or literature are all autonomous and would like to pursue their own agenda without interference from religion. And second, the world of faith exists which no reason can say about. Thus, the practice of faith is looked upon as an activity of the uncritical, uneducated, superstitious and fatalistic.
We do not believe in this division of reality. We believe that both reason and faith are complimentary and are not contradictory. The Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, has a book called, Ethics, which was left incomplete because of his arrest by the Gestapo in 1943. He said, “Jesus Christ is the center and strength of the Bible, of the Church, and of theology, but also of humanity, reason, of justice, and of culture. Everything must return to Him: it is only under his protection that it can live.” Pope John Paul II challenged the nations, “do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.” (Oct 22, 1978).
In other words, our faith loves and cherishes reason as the gift of all gifts from God. It is the most fundamental faculty which distinguishes us from all other creatures. The Church seeks to sustain reason and reason prepares the way to faith, and when faith is attained, reason helps the believer to understand what is believed. If you put faith and reason together, it enables us to pursue our dreams, to continually hope of a better and brighter future in the midst of decay and war, and never to stop searching for better ways to improve our lives.
For example, we all dream of peace and justice. We hope that the war in Sulu would end. But peace and justice cannot be done without the spirit of unselfish love and forgiveness. But unselfish love and forgiveness cannot be possible without a religious motivation. We all know that from experience: for those of us who are unable to forgive someone, we will not be able to move on faster and lighter in our lives. We are continually burdened by our heartaches. The principle of forgiveness, brought into the world by Jesus Christ, is offered as the solution to end all wars and division. Faith enables us to see a reality beyond what we see. When we discover the value of friendship and companionship, family and nationality, peace and order, then our faith has opened our eyes to what is meaningful and to what is eternal. In UP, the image of the oblation reminds us of self-sacrifice and service for the nation. Self-sacrifice & service are notions in the realm of altruistic love. That is religious motivation. UP’s vision, therefore, is founded on faith.