Friday, December 13, 2013

Knowing Why We Believe

  "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15-16). With these words, a seminary professor writing in the Kyeongyang magazine wonders, in answering such a question, how much theology do we have to know?

He recalls visiting a home of one of the Catholics when he was a pastor and was told by the mother that her elementary school 6-grade daughter was not going to Mass anymore.  The priest asked the daughter why she stopped going to Mass. She answered with seriousness and emotion, " I don't think there is a God." The priest then asked, "What makes you think there is no God?" "If there were a God, I would be able to see him, and I can't," was her simple and precise answer.

The priest found the girl attractive and worthy of praise, for she spoke from her heart, directly and simply. He tried another question: "Do you love your mother?"  "Yes, I love her," she answered. "Since I can't see the love you have for your mother, are you sure it exists?" he asked her. The child was silent.  The priest now asks himself whether these words addressed to the child helped prepare one of the stepping stones for her to "see" God.

During the years he was pastor, he remembers the many questions he received like the one he heard from the 6- grade child. Many of our Catholics, he said, feel uncomfortable answering these questions. They have many of their own doubts, though generally unspoken, considering them arrogant and irreverent, and possibly sinful.

Is it an ideal situation when our faith life has no questions or doubts? the priest asks. Often a person with a simple deep  faith has a better grasp on faith than those who have read the theological explanations for faith. But can we say that those who have unanswered questions and do not look for answers have a reasonable faith life?  When we can't convince ourselves to find answers to our questions, he goes on to say, don't we have a problem?

There is a foundation for our belief, the priest points out, and we should know the reasons for our belief. Why we believe in God, the actions that proceed from that belief, and the hope we have should all be explainable and done so in front of others (1 Peter 3: 15-16).  What we believe, when  not internalized, will show in our actions.  If  all we are able to do, for instance, is say that was a beautiful sermon the priest gave, or use the words of some famous personage instead of our own to express personal feelings, how does that enable us to walk those stepping stones we have in front of us?

How much theology do we need to speak about the basics of our faith? Asking this question he wonders how many will complain that they are plenty busy making enough to eat and live. But if religion is going to be more than a hobby or a leisure-time activity, he says we, like the child mentioned, have to find the questions we have within us, and then to the best of our ability try to answer them.

 Don't we need enough theology to ask the meaning for the existence of God, for my own existence and that of humanity, and to look for the reasons for the things we see all around us? And the reasons we work so hard to raise our families? And why we have to forgive? All are questions we have to ask ourselves, he maintains. When one of my brothers or sisters is hurting because of the society in which we live, don't we have to ask ourselves why? By nurturing such a faith, we become mature Christians, able to take our stand in the modern world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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