10/20/2016 9:00:00 AM BISHOP'S COLUMN Faith is a way of seeing
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER
Yuri Gagarin -- the first Soviet cosmonaut in space -- is said to have commented while in orbit, "I don't see any God up here." It may never have occurred to him that God could still see him.
Pediatric specialists believe that babies, before developing object permanence, actually believe their parents come and go while playing "peek-a-boo," based on whether the parent is in the child's line of sight. I've known some adults to complain of this about their loved ones: out of sight, out of mind.
Science and technology are great blessings for humanity. Some otherwise intelligent people, however, seem to be blinded by a kind of "faith" in the myth that science and faith somehow contradict each other -- or that, eventually, faith will no longer be needed, as science and technology advance.
Even scientists need some kind of faith. Why even use the scientific method if you don't believe it will lead to some truth?
It is true that faith is a way of seeing with somewhat different eyes than those of the scientist. But even the most scientifically rigorous physicians tend to look at a loved one differently from a patient. A person is so much more than just a clump of cells -- whether a very small bundle in the womb or in more developed stages.
Science and faith see the same reality from different perspectives.
Even on a practical level, we like to present ourselves in a different light on different occasions. We don't always speak, dress and express our feelings in the same way with every person or in every place. We are the same person -- the shamed sinner who must confess grave failings -- but we also know ourselves to be made in the image of God, loved into being, forgiven for those less noble actions and thoughts that we know, deep down, may scar us but do not define us.
We have the certainty of faith, knowing this to be true, even though no scientific theorem can prove we are right, for the evidence that this is worth believing is not found in space or in nanophysics.
Faith is trust in the evidence of love. It is not blind to reality, only to despair, because it knows from deep in the heart that what it hopes for, whom it hopes in, is real, though not yet fully revealed.
Even on a natural level, we experience this every day. Our friends and our children: We love them and they love us, though both sides know that we are never all that we can be, all that we really are, in any given moment.
With God, it's different -- not logically, but experientially. Unlike us, God is never only partly there. God is always who God is: the "I am who am," or, in another translation, "I am whom I am."
Moses, who was so close to God, could not really look into God's face. We find it hard to take in all of God's radiant goodness, purity and splendor. We are not holy enough.
A young child may see her parents indulging in a delicious meal, but not yet have the teeth to chew and avoid choking on the food. No parent would risk suffocating a child with too much of a good thing too soon. Maybe that is something of the sense in the Old Testament adage that no one can look upon the face of God and live -- or when Jesus says there are many things He would like to tell us, but we could not bear it now.
Just because you or I don't know everything does not mean it isn't there.
I have never been to Bora Bora. I hear it is a gorgeous place with beautiful people. I would like to go sometime. I have never seen it. In fact, I don't even recall seeing pictures of it or talking to anyone who has been there personally. I do not, however, doubt it is there.
Jesus tells his disciples (and us) that no one has seen the Father except Him, the Son. I take His word for it. He is credible. Why? For me, His love makes him credible.
Not everyone is believable. Not everything people say can be believed. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes a person may feel very sure of a memory, but must stand corrected by others. In fact, all material observations and measurements are subject to review and revision. Even what we call "settled" science is only a consensus based upon observations that have not yet been challenged by new data -- or new lenses of observation.
There are other reasons for believing or not believing in a certain reality. One is the credibility of the messenger who tells us about something or someone. Another, even more compelling reason is if we know the messenger loves us.
In last week's column, I offered the thought that faithfulness is the real test of love. But isn't love itself the most reliable test of truth itself? The more we know a person loves us, the more we can be confident they are telling us the truth.
I don't mean that a scientist who tells his kids that The Egg in Albany was modeled after a UFO he saw is credible just because he loves his children. He could still be delusional. There are those today (and even among His own relatives) who thought Jesus was mad.
But, in that madness we sometimes call love, there is an undeniable conviction that the words and the actions spoken and lived by the beloved person somehow hold together. There is not a single flaw or contradiction between the Word and the truth spoken and lived.
When person actually is who he or she says they are, when that person is by all standards good, we say he or she is holy or saintly. The more we come to know Jesus, the more we listen and reflect on His words and actions, the more we come to believe in Him as the perfect lover.
If you are really seeking love -- and God is love -- seek Jesus. He will never lie to you. He will show you who you really are and what your true destiny is, and all of the wonderful promises He makes about mansions in His Father's house will begin to seem so much more reliable than the world's promises of how sex, money and power will make us happy.
You will believe Jesus and have faith in Him, because you will come to know He loves you -- enough to die for you, even if you were the only person in the world. He came for you and for me to give us everything that He has from the Father.
We do not know all that might consist of; we don't even know much about all that the universe itself contains. But even if we did (or could) understand, the universe could not contain it. God's goodness is always much more than we can see.