We Believe in God
October 6, 2012 Every year the priests of my order gather together for a course of Theological update. Last week, around fifty priests from USA, Canada and Guyana came to upstate New York for a three days course about faith. As you know, last Thursday the Holy Father opened the year of faith, a year to reflect on the mysteries of our Christian Doctrine and to examine how faith is mirrored in our lives. I would like today to share something I have found very meaningful in the conferences we have heard.
Our point is this: we believe in God, we have faith, when we believe the things that God has revealed because God has revealed them. To believe is not simply to agree with the positions of the Church, because they make sense to me. To believe is to be sure that what the Church teaches is true, because the Church is just saying to us what God has said. I am sure that this is true because God has spoken it. We believe in God, because God is perfect, God knows, and because God cannot be deceived nor deceive. He is trustworthy, so we believe.
1- The reason for which we believe is the authority of God. We don't believe in the priest, because of his authority or studies, or because we like how he preaches. We believe in God. And if we believe in the priest it is only because we know that he is teaching us what God has said.
Why do we trust in the Church, the pope or the priest? Because Jesus said: "Those who hear you, hear me". As long as a Bishop or a clergy teaches something in communion with the Pope, we know that we hear Jesus. And whoever teaches something in that way, in agreement with the doctrine of the Church, teaches the truth, even if he or she is not clergy.
2- Our faith is a certainty, an assurance based on the authority of God. I believe because God has said this, and he cannot lie nor be deceived. Our faith is certain, is sure. Faith is not an opinion, it is a certainty. Some questions may help us to understand this better.
"But how can I be certain of what the priest says, if he is a just a man?". Because you are not certain of the words of a man, who may fail, but of the word of God. God cannot fail, and that's why our faith must be sure, firm.
"How can I be sure of what the Church teaches me, if I don't understand?". You don't believe because you understand, but because God understands. I don't believe because it makes sense to me, but because it makes sense to God. It is important to understand this. If I believe only what makes sense to me, I trust myself, not God. This is not to have faith. To have faith is to accept whatever God says, just because he says, and because we know he cannot be wrong. Of course, it is good to have a personal opinion, and we have to guide ourselves according to our knowledge, we have to be responsible. But we have to recognize our limits. We don't know everything, and we may be wrong. God knows everything, and he cannot be wrong. That's why we believe in him.
So, when we don't understand, we have to ask ourselves: "Is it the word of God? If it is, I'm sure it is true, because God cannot fail".
3- Faith is not against reason. How do we learn human sciences? The only way to learn is first to believe in what the teacher says, and then, after a while, you may be able to understand it by yourself. But almost every human science begins by faith. Likewise, our knowledge of God begins by faith in this life, and becomes vision and understanding in Heaven.
Moreover, some of the things we believe, we may also come to understand. Some of the teachings of the Church in moral matters, for example, are in accordance with human reason and science. That's why it is not only the Church that defends life from conception, but also other religions and even people who do not belong to any religious group.
There is another reason for which our intelligence is important to believe. Because if I want to believe in God, I need to know first that there is a God, that God has spoken, I need to know what God has said, and that God cannot lie. As St. Paul says, I have to "know whom I have believed" (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:12). Faith is so important, we cannot give faith to anyone. Our reason has to show us whom we have to believe. We have reasons to believe. That's why a year ago we talked in our homilies about the basis of the faith, that is to say, the reasons we have to put our faith in God through the teaching of the Church.
In this year of faith we have a beautiful opportunity to examine our faith. What does it mean to me the teaching of the Church or the teaching of the Bible? Do I agree because it makes sense to me? Or do I believe because it is the word of God? Is my faith a weak opinion, or a firm certainty? Do I have reasons to believe, do I know the reasons for which I must believe in Jesus?
Chesterton used to say: "God doesn't ask you to take off your head when you enter the Church, but only the hat". Reason and faith are different, but not in opposition. Reason is important before faith, to know the person you believe, and after faith, to understand what you believe. When you know that, faith is able to become part of your life. It is beautiful to realize that our faith, our beautiful faith makes sense, gives real meaning to our life, and satisfies the deepest desires of our heart. May God give us the grace to grow in faith.