"Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith our ancestors were approved. By faith we understand that the stages of creation were disposed by God's word. And what is visible came from what cannot be seen." (Hebrews 11:1-3)
*From Christian Community Bible (Catholic Pastoral Edition):
Doubts overcome those who isolate themselves. Why do we not look at those who have gone before us, not just one or the other but the mass of witnesses; all cannot be illusory.
Faith is the way of holding onto what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. The examples chosen show that faith cannot remain within us as an intimate conviction. What matters is to act according to faith and make decisions inspired by faith. That is why Hebrews 11 offers so many biblical examples of men and women who risked everything for faith. We cannot understand the obedience of Abraham unless he had trust in God against all hope. The same when Moses gave up a promising future for the impossible task of leading his people; his faith made him act in the present as if he saw what was invisible.
It is not so simple to say what a believer believes, what she hopes for and what she does not want: the given examples show many different attitudes. Enoch searched for God, Noah prepared for the future of the world on the eve of a catastrophe, some lived on earth without looking for a fixed abode, others gave their lives in defense of an earthly homeland.
All were certain that God wanted to do something with them: their life would be fruitful in one way of another. The contrast in verse 35 is to be noted: some through faith obtained from God the resurrection of a dead child but the faith of others led them to choose torture and death, expecting from God a resurrection in the future.
This selection of heroes of faith gives a place of honor to leaders and valiant people who have wished to free and serve their people. In so doing they were perhaps unconsciously seeking their real homeland. How many people today, unbelievers perhaps, shunned by the churches, are in fact on the road to the city of God when they sacrifice themselves in preparing for the future of the world. They are the Hebrews of the modern world and God is not being ashamed of being called their God.
These heroes of the faith died without having seen what God promised; it would seem that many have failed but their successors will discover that it is they who have made authentic history. The author addresses the Christians saying: "We are people of faith and we shall save our soul," which means: we shall fulfill all that is in us, and await what God has reserved for us in eternity.
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