The second part of the four part series, in which the author examines what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.
The second letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, Chapter 5 discusses the most obvious objects we see: our bodies. The visible body is described as a tent, earthly, groaning, burdened and mortal. Yes, like all things we see in this world, our bodies are temporary. Yet God is preparing for us something eternal, in the heavens, and further clothed. That is, an eternal, incorruptible body. Verse 4 says: “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Thus, God is preparing an eternal kingdom where His perfected people will dwell in perfected bodies with Him for all eternity.
Knowing this we (our spirit) groan because we feel burdened, not just because of our earthly cares and worries, but also with the desire to inhabit our heavenly home, and to be further clothed. We long (subconsciously) to see what God has prepared for us. St Paul tell us in his first letter to the Corinthians that “Eyes have not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the hearts of men the things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
This reality of living in our earthly bodies carries with it the inherent frustration and realization of our absence from God. This is the reason the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “God created us to know Him, to love Him, to serve him so that we may live with Him in heavenly joy at the end of our earthly pilgrimage”. This teaching should fire us up to truly live our lives and conduct ourselves in a manner that shows an earnest desire to be present with God. This is walking by faith, not by sight!
Let us examine some of the verses more closely:
Verse 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
If we are comfortable in our earthly bodies (while we are at home in the body), we are absent from the Lord because we are focused on things that are temporal. However, if this absence from the Lord makes us uncomfortable, we can turn our attention heavenward basing all our actions on faith, knowing that although we cannot “see” Him now face to face, the day will come when we will be with Him. Right now we are IN Him, and have the Holy Spirit as our guarantee so that we might get a foretaste of the things to come, and live with confidence in the fulfillment of these promises.
Verse 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
Verse seven defines what we should do without ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. ‘For’ – implies that this is what we do. For we walk by faith, not by sight! It tells us our “position” in faith! “For’ places us firmly in faith – no hesitation, no doubting, or mental calculations!
Verse 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Verse eight assures us that when we are done with this earthly body having walked by faith, we will have the pleasure of being able to behold God face to face (to be present with the Lord).
Verse 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him
Whatever our state, we should make it our aim to please God. If our focus is centered on how we are to get by in this life on earth, that is, focusing on the temporal realities of this world, we are chasing shadows. As King Solomon says – vanity of vanities, all is vanity. But if we have an eternal perspective, and if we make it our aim to please God, we will have no fear concerning the things of this world.
Verse 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ at the end of our earthly pilgrimage. The certitude of this reality should make us fearful of living our life outside of God’s commandments. This fear should not make us apprehensive, however, it should spur us to live our lives according to God’s will.
How we are to walk this walk?
Consider Romans 2:6-10: 6 He will render to each one according to his works. 7 To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
Proverbs tells us that ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction’ (Proverbs 1:7). Yes, we should fear the Lord, and not be the fool who says in his heart there is no God.
Also consider St. Peter’s guide to Fruitful Growth in the Faith from 2 Peter 1:5-10.
5 “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
If we take on board St Peter’s guide, apply these recommendations, what a tremendous difference this would make in our lives! We would most certainly walk by faith, not by sight!