The question of Christian belief

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WHILE it’s true that we believe what we want to believe, we should also remember that before wanting to believe, there should be an objective basis for that belief. And that’s because we actually do not choose what to believe. We have to believe what ought to be believed. What is clear is that we simply do not make reality itself. We are part of the reality created by God, and we just have to conform to it in the best way we can.

It’s not an easy thing to do, of course. Especially in our case, since we are gifted with the spiritual powers of intelligence and will that enable us to be both free and responsible, passive and active elements in the over-all reality of things, we need to see to it that we are exercising our powers well and fulfilling our duties properly. Yes, we are being formed and conditioned by the reality on the ground, but we also help in forming and keeping that reality.

To top it all, the reality that concerns us is not simply the reality of nature. Due to our spiritual powers, we are poised to enter not only into the spiritual realities of things, like our ideas and understanding of things and the ways of freedom and love. We also enter into the supernatural world. Thus, among the creatures on earth, we are the only ones who can talk about God and grace and eternal life, about the distinction between time and eternity, etc.

It is for this reason that we need not only our natural powers to handle this supernatural dimension of our life. We need something supernatural itself, which is the grace of God. As described by the Catechism, grace is “a participation in the life of God,” (1997). It is given to us by God’s gratuitous initiative, but it demands our free response. (cfr CCC 2002)

And this is where some problems can start. Because of our freedom which we can misuse since we can have a wrong understanding of it, making it our own creation rather than being a gift of God that has to be used according to God’s will, we can choose not to believe in God but rather in something else, in our own creation.

This problem was highlighted in that gospel episode where some Pharisees asked Christ for a sign to test him. (cfr. Mk 8,11-13) In spite of the tremendous amount of things to point to them about the divinity of Christ, they chose to stick to their own ideas of how the expected redeemer ought to be. And so, Christ just left them without giving them any sign.

We have to understand from this episode that for us to be able to believe in Christ, all we have to do is just to go over his life story, his teachings, miracles, and ultimately his passion, death and resurrection, that would definitely prove his divinity and redemptive power beyond doubt.

But for this to take place, we need to humble ourselves since something supernatural takes place whenever the Christian faith starts to take root in us. Without this humility, we would not be receptive, but rather be resistant, to God’s grace that brings with it our Christian belief.

We really have to work out our humility, as Christ himself strongly encourages us to do, giving us his very own example.