Belief in the Unseen

Scripture Reading

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for 
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested. 

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance; 
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; 
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, 
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate, 
even though he was past the normal age
Band Sarah herself was sterileB 
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead, 
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky 
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised 
but saw it and greeted it from afar 
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, 
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, 
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, 
for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, 
and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, 
of whom it was said,
Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, 
and he received Isaac back as a symbol. 

(Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19)


Scripture Study

11:1 things not seen: Such as the heavenly Jerusalem (11:10, 16; 12:22), where Jesus ministers in the heavenly sanctuary (4:14; 8:1–2; 12:2). ● Faith is distinct from all other acts of the intellect. It is defined as assurance, which distinguishes it from opinion, suspicion, and doubt; it adheres to things not seen, which distinguishes it from science, whose object is something apparent; and it is directed toward things hoped for, by which the virtue of faith is distinguished from popular notions of faith, which have no reference to the beatitude we hope to attain (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, 4, 1).

11:8–22 The faithful of the patriarchal age. ● Abraham stands out as the man of faith par excellence. He kept faith when the Lord called him to leave his homeland (Heb 11:8; Gen 12:1–4), to roam around Canaan like a nomad (Heb 11:9; Gen 12:5–9; 13:2–18), and to sacrifice his son as a holocaust (Heb 11:17–19; Gen 22:1–14). Sarah overcame doubts with faith, believing that God could reverse the barrenness of her womb with the blessing of a son (Heb 11:11; Gen 21:1–3). Isaac and Jacob blessed their sons and gave them visions of the future (Heb 11:20–21; Gen 27:26–40; 48:8–20). Joseph peered into the future by faith, foreseeing the Exodus and the transfer of his bones out of Egypt (Heb 11:22; Gen 50:24–25; Ex 13:19) (CCC 2570–73).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Although the text does not aim to provide a precise definition of faith, it does in fact very clearly describe the essence of that virtue, linking it to hope in future things and to certainty concerning supernatural truths. By means of faith, the believer acquires certainty concerning God’s promises to man, and a firm conviction that he will obtain access to heaven.

Faith is “conviction” concerning things not seen. It is therefore different from opinion, suspicion or doubt (none of which implies certainty). By saying that it has to do with things unseen, it is distinguishing faith from knowledge and intuitive cognition.

A feature of faith is that it makes us certain about things which are not self-evident. That is why in order to believe one must want to believe, why the act of believing is always free and meritorious. However, faith can, with God’s help, reach a certainty greater than any proof can provide.

John Paul I said, “Therefore, nothing should dishearten us on this road to our ultimate eternal goal because we put our trust in three truths: God is all-powerful, God has a boundless love for me, and God is faithful to his promises. It is he, the God of mercies, who enkindles this trust within me, so that I never feel lonely or useless or abandoned but, rather, involved in a plan of salvation which will one day reach its goal in Paradise.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 



[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 432.