- The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also (Rom. 8:11)
“Faith,” says Heb. 11:1, “is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” It sounds to me that this statement is a variation of the same theme found in the beatitude, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” I am referring to the theme that faith, not sight, matters (cf. footnote 18 ).
Sight, of course, has its own value—likewise hearing, smell, taste, or touch. But the value of the senses stand out precisely when they are at the service of faith. And according to the evangelist John, it was to foster faith and, consequently, life in his name that the signs Jesus did in the presence of his disciples were then recorded for the perception of later generations. Confirmed in the faith, too, do we find the disciples, in the same narrative, when Jesus appeared to them and showed them his hands and his side.
St. Paul, for his part, holds up faith in Jesus and the invocation of his name as the goal to which leads a series of occurrences that involve bodily senses. I gather this from Rom. 10:14-15, where St. Paul asks rhetorically: “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach. And how can people preach unless they are sent?”
It appears to me, then, that insofar as sight—or any other bodily sense—is at the service of faith, then faith takes precedence over sight. And the priority of faith is highlighted even more, I believe, if we consider that frequently, not to say always, we do not really see in its totality what we are looking at. That is because we always look at things from a specific point of view, which means that when we see the front, for example, we do not see the back. When something is revealed to us, something else remains veiled. Human vision is quite limited.
Our sight is so limited we need revelation, which supposes faith in the one who reveals. Without revelation and the faith, which is the positive response to it, we will continue, among other things, not knowing those we are seeing, no matter how strong our insistence that we know them. If it had not been for revelation, Saul would not have known whom he was persecuting when he persecuted the Christians. Were it not for revelation, we would not know whom we help, or fail to help, when we help, or fail to help, the least of the brothers and sisters. The faith that results from revelation makes us go beyond our human capacity to see only what is on the outside and gives us a share in the vision of God who sees the heart. Seeing the poor, then, in the light of faith, which is sharper and more penetrating than human sight, we recognize in them the Son of God. Desiring to become poor, he allowed himself to be spurned and avoided by men and he became a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, so unattractive men hid their faces from him (Is. 53:2-3). Jesus gives us now the opportunity to serve him as we come to help the poor, in their hunger, their thirst, their loneliness, their misfortune, their unattractiveness.
The works of faith, which serves as signs that attest to Jesus’ resurrection and to his real presence through his powerful Spirit of peace, pardon and repentance, contribute to the raising up and the growth of the body of Christ, because due these works those who make up this body are held in esteem. And the fact that he who was once dead is now living forever and ever is the guarantee that they will also be risen those who, in communion with him, become poor and mortally vulnerable in order to contribute to the lifting up of the poor.
The firstborn from the dead is now really present and warns us about the place of torment where the rich man who was indifferent to poor Lazarus ended. If I remain unbelieving like the apostle Thomas on the ground that I have first to see in order to believe and I do not see the need to believe in order to see, then, I am afraid, I will never get around to do works of faith. And please let me add that what authentic faith does, and not what faith is in itself, is what is described in the praise of faith that Heb. 1 sings no sooner than it has intoned, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (cf. footnote 1 ).