Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?
Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph
You see the computer screen flicker and a blue screen pop up. You read there has been a fatal error. Not knowing what to do, you take out your cell phone and call your brother-in-law.
I think we’ve all had this experience before. In the world today, no one can be an expert in everything. Whether it’s a plumber, an electrician, a mechanic—or your brother-in-law the computer guru—we need to trust experts in different fields. Having faith in matters of human expertise is so normal we hardly think about it. We couldn’t live in society, or pass a single day if we didn’t.
Why does faith make sense? The answer is fairly simple. We look for people who are certified, who have experience, and who know how things work. Since they have “vision” or direct knowledge about their skill or field of expertise, it makes sense to enter into a relationship of trust with them and rely on them.
This is why the Catholic faith also makes sense. The substance of the Catholic faith is above earthly experience. We won’t literally “see” the truths of the faith until we are with God in heaven. But God knows these truths. God “sees” them. And in heaven, we will see them finally. Since we cannot see them now, we have to rely on God’s authority to receive them. This is what St. Thomas Aquinas is getting at in his famous hymn about the Eucharist where he says, “what God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;/ Truth Himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.”
This shows us the connection between our personal relationship with God and believing all of God’s truth. This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that faith is first of all “a personal adherence of man to God,” and “at the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (CCC 150). Believing in God, we also believe everything He tells us. So the Catechism says that believing means first believing the Person and then believing the truth, “by trust in the person who bears witness to it” (CCC 177).
Jesus Christ Himself—both God and man— revealed the fullness of the truth of God. The apostles handed on the truth of Jesus Christ in its fullness, and entrusted to the bishops of the Church in communion with the Pope the authority to teach in their name. So when we receive the faith of the Church we receive it, “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). For this reason, our personal faith must always completely acknowledge the Church’s faith to be authentic. Perhaps this is why St. Cyprian says, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother” (CCC 181).
As we gaze upon God in faith, let us exclaim that intensely personal and creedal confession of the Apostle Thomas: “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).