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“Ask a Priest: What If I’m Starting to Question Jesus’ Divinity?”
Q: I am having problems with myself concluding that Jesus Christ is truly God. In today’s world, many of the atheists are very outspoken and let their opinion be known. I’m not quite sure if their point of view is starting to leak over onto me (as a lot of my good friends are atheist) or it is because my faith has become weak and I just do not believe anymore. I want to believe but with the research that I’ve done, I’m not sure I can go back to my Catholic beliefs wholeheartedly. Do you have any advice on what the next steps for me should be? How do you feel that Jesus’ presence is integrated into everyday life? Is it bad that I am questioning my religion, or is this a test that every Christian goes through? -A.T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is understandable that at some point you will question the tenets of your faith. God created faith and reason, and he wants us to use our intellect in order to better understand our faith. Someone who doesn’t make an effort to learn more about his faith is probably living with a childish faith.
Now, it is good to qualify the above statement. Faith is a gift, and like other gifts it can be lost. We can lose it through laziness or habitual sin or through negligence by not guarding it.
You mention that a lot of your good friends are atheist. This sends up a red flag immediately. If you are hanging out with a lot of atheists, then it is not surprising that they will have an impact on your thinking. That is not a prudent way to protect your faith.
It is one thing to have to deal with atheists in daily life – at school, at work – but it is another to have a lot of pals who reject God. Like the ocean waves that continually pound coastal rocks, their skepticism can wear away the foundations of your faith.
So what to do? As a Catholic your working assumption should be in favor of the faith. That means if you encounter something you don’t understand, let your first response be one of faith. You can pray, “Lord, I don’t understand this, but I want to be enlightened, I want to be able to accept this.”
Then make an effort to learn more about a topic. Go to the Catechism. Read books of Catholic apologetics. Or find someone who can explain things to you. The Catholic faith is reasonable. It might go beyond reason and our ability to grasp it (such as the notion of the Trinity), but it won’t go against reason. Thus the faith has nothing to hide from intellectual probing.
Above all, maintain a good prayer life and sacramental life. Prayer and the sacraments nourish our faith. Without them and the grace they bring, our faith withers. To nourish your prayer life, consider doing the online retreats at RC Spirituality and reading The Better Part.
You always might want to start looking for another set of friends. It can be enormously helpful to be around Catholics who are trying to live their faith. The faith is best understood and best lived within a believing community. Getting involved in Church-related projects, that is, the work of evangelization, can also strengthen one’s faith.
Moreover, you might find spending time with the Gospels in front of the Blessed Sacrament to be immensely helpful. The center of our faith is a Person: Jesus Christ. Our faith can be thought of as our relationship with him. He suffered and died for you, for your redemption, for love of you. When you make time to speak to him during the day, you will more easily detect his workings in your life. This is one way to integrate Our Lord into your day.
(A helpful resource could be Peter Kreeft’s audio course “Faith and Reason”; your local library system might carry it.) I hope some of this helps. God bless.