Eleventh Sunday

“We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).  “Walking” is a way of speaking about living, step by step. According to Paul, Christians go forward each day by faith and not by what is apparent.

St. Thomas Aquinas reflects on Paul’s words: “We walk by faith, i.e., we pass through this life in faith, and not by sight: because faith deals with things not seen. For the word of faith is as a lamp with which the road is lit in this life: ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my steps’” (Ps. 119:105); We walk by faith, because faith is concerned with things unseen: ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen’” (Heb. 11:1) (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, 161)

Thomas notes: “As we assent by believing to the things we do not see, we are said to walk by faith and not by sight.” We evaluate what we are doing and the choices we make according to what we believe.

Paul’s faith was so strong that he actually wanted to die so he could be with the Lord: “I would much rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). He makes a similar statement in his Letter to the Philippians: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). We can see the strong love that Paul had for Christ.

We think that our home is where we live now, but Paul saw his true home with Jesus, as Thomas says, “We are absent inasmuch as we are outside our native land, which is God.” Thomas observes that Paul is making clear that “The saints see the essence of God immediately after death” (Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, 167).

Paul asserts that he is “full of confidence” (2 Cor 5:6). Thomas acknowledges that this conviction is not from nature but from grace because we naturally fear death. According to Thomas, many of us might want to be with the Lord but still we fear death. Thomas says, “Although the saints naturally fear death, yet they dare to face the dangers of death and not yield because of a fear of death: ‘The righteous are bold as a lion’ (Prov. 28:1)” (Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, 163).

Thomas is not saying that they felt no fear. Rather, Thomas explains, “Where there is no fear, there is no daring. For the fear of death springs from our nature’s desire, but the daring of grace’s desire. Therefore, he says, we dare” (Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, 165).

In other words, if a person felt no fear, there would be no daring. So the saints were brave because, although they felt the fear of death naturally, but by grace, they faced challenges that could bring death. St. Thomas describes this as, “the victory of the one desire, namely, of grace” (Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, 165).

Even though we have the emotion of fear, we can be daring by going against it. The best example is Jesus, who asked His Father if the cup (of His death) might pass away.

If our attitude is that of the Psalmist “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42:5), we try to live in a way that is conducive to reaching our goal. Paul asserts: “We make it our aim to please Him whether we are with Him or away from Him.” Thomas comments: “They please God by resisting evil. Hence he says, so, namely, because our whole desire is to be present with God, we contend, i.e., we make great effort, i.e., we strive and fight against the temptations of the devil, the flesh and the world” (Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, 169).

Paul believes that a judgement awaits each person, depending on how he or she lived: “So each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

Challenges to “walk by faith” are before each one of us. At times, we may fear the repercussions of acting according to what we believe, yet the fear should not stop us. We can be “confident” as Paul was and let grace win the victory over the weaknesses of our nature.

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P. The quotations from St. Thomas’ Commentary on the First Letter to the Corinthians are taken from the translations of Fr. Fabian R. Larcher, O.P., edited by J. Mortensen and E. Alarcón. The translation, found in Volume 38 of the Biblical Commentaries, was published by the Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, Lander, Wyoming, in 2012.

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