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“Ask a Priest: Why Do Catholics Have Confidence in Their Beliefs?”
Q: There are around 4,000 different religions, all using their Bible to prove their religion is right. So how do you have such faith in yours? This is where I’m at: Hinduism is the oldest religion, so logically seems like a good fit. Judaism, which holds that God spoke to its people in a unique way, seems like a greater fit; but it seems unfair to the rest of the population. Then Christianity seems as though it’s amazing — but why didn’t God talk about this stuff in the Torah? That is, why didn’t God say, “I’m the one and only God made up of three Persons”? Or why didn’t he say in the Torah that “The Messiah will be my Son whom I will send down”? I’m lost and seeking. I’ve always believed in God and I want a relationship with him, not for rewards or everlasting life but because I just want a relationship. Please help. – Luke
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It sounds as though the Holy Spirit is nudging you to seek the truth.
It’s good that you want a relationship with God without thinking of the rewards that might go along with it. That shows purity of intention on your part. That is a good way of approaching religion.
In fact, that notion of a relationship helps us to put the Bible in context and to understand why God might have revealed things the way he did.
God didn’t reveal everything of himself at once. He revealed himself in stages, first to Adam and Eve and the later to the patriarchs and the Israelites.
He probably didn’t reveal himself explicitly as a Trinity since the Israelites lived in a world where pagan gods were listed in abundance. The idea of the Trinity (three divine Persons in one God) would have sounded too much like three gods to the ancients. That would have been confusing to them. They had to understand first and foremost that there is only one God.
As for the identity of the Messiah: The Old Testament is full of subtle references pointing to the coming of Christ. “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27).
Christians can detect these references because we have the benefit of what Jesus revealed. The ancients weren’t comparably equipped.
One way to spot some of the Old Testament references is to get a Catholic Bible and look at the footnotes in the New Testament that refer to passages in the Old. The New American Bible or the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition would help.
Catholics can have confidence that theirs is the true faith, in part, because both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition attest to what we believe today.
Sacred Tradition is the teaching of Christ and the apostles passed down orally. Sacred Tradition helps us to interpret Scripture. In fact, Scripture came out of Tradition, since things were transmitted orally before they were written down.
Tradition can be found in various sources: the writings of the Church Fathers and other Christian writers, some of whom date to the first century; the councils of the Church; and the liturgy, which is embedded with theological meaning.
The Church Fathers and councils speak of the sacraments – baptism, the Eucharist, holy orders, etc. – the very things Catholics embrace to this day. And the papacy, which is with us still, can be traced back to St. Peter, to whom Jesus gave authority (“the keys to the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 16:19).
At the heart of the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer, the Second Person of the Trinity who took on human nature and walked among us. In him is the fullness of what God wanted to reveal to mankind. The one Church he founded survives to this day: the Catholic Church.
It might help to get an overview of the Catholic faith. A few suggestions would be: the Youth Catechism (or YouCat); the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (accessible online); and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (a heavier read).
Helpful if you are curious among specific topics is the Catholic Answers site.
Above all, get to know the person of Jesus through the Gospels. He’s your best friend.
I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.
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