Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series

Written by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

Our faith begins with God. We sometimes forget that. For all the discussions and debates that Christians can get lost in, we sometimes forget that our belief is rooted in God.

Blessed Pope John Paul II once proclaimed that our generation engages in a fundamental struggle, which is whether we believe in God or not. Love, as it is said, requires a self-emptying.

A teacher I know once asked this question to a student who wondered out loud whether he believed in God or not: “Do you believe that life is more than meets the eye?” she asked.

People of faith – and even atheists – are captivated by the fact that there is one Being who is the creator and the sustainer of the entire universe.

That same teacher said it this way: the first step to believing in God follows closely the second step, which is realizing that you are not God!

Today’s “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?” question asks: what is the central mystery of the Catholic Faith?

While (A) Grace, (B) the Incarnation, and (C) the Hypostatic Union identify something unique about Christianity and of Jesus Christ, (D) the mystery of the Trinity, is the central mystery of our Faith, which speaks of the very life of God in Himself.

The Trinity is the mystery of one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We know about the Trinity because God has revealed Himself to us.

The Trinity can only be distinguished according to the Persons. It is false, for instance, to replace the identification “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” with “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.”

The Trinity reveals how God is in Himself. Our God is a Living God, who exhibits both knowledge and love. His inner essence is dynamic, we might say, in that this knowledge and love exists in His inner Being. God knows Himself in the Son. The Holy Spirit is, we might say, the love that exists between the Father and the Son.

The Incarnate Son of God, who is Jesus Christ, fully manifests God. Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (Jn 14:9 ff.)

We can know and love God by the grace given to us in Christ Jesus. The grace of faith joins us to God such that we are joined, in heart and mind, to His inner life. Faith accomplishes this in this life, with the goal of heaven – the Beatific Vision – where we may one day see God face to face. To know and to love God now and in heaven fills the human heart with greater happiness than we can ever imagine, which is like unto God Himself.

Join us on December 20th for our next “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?” post.

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5 Responses

  1. susanna says:

    I’m confused now why this isn’t the same as when the priest says “the mystery of faith” in the liturgy of the ordinary form Mass. Rather something like When we eat this bread and drink this cup etc. Thanks.

    • Thank you for your question, Susanna. While we could say there are many “mysteries of the faith” — and you reference an extremely important one when your refer to the words of the Mass — we can identify the “central” mystery of the faith, which is the source of all that is revealed in Christ. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’”. (CCC 234) http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P17.HTM

      To say the Trinity is the “central mystery” of our faith is not is any way to lessen the importance of those other great mysteries of the faith, however.

      Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

  2. GaryM. says:

    Thank you, Dominican Brothers.

    Speaking of mysteries, although not a central mystery, perhaps you can clarify something for me:

    If God is infinite, perfect and complete in every way, why did he create man? The nuns in second grade seemed to fluff this off to his loneliness, the brothers in high school expanded this to the concept of “sharing” out of love for us. Etc. etc. So, in my humble view, well, all explanations contradict the definition of God by giving Him a human attribute of need or want. Even the concept of His “love” is weak at best. He created us, gave us all we need to survive (air to breath, animals to eat, fields to grow crops, even an intellect to survive), offered the perfect sacrifice of Himself for the the forgiveness of sins and even gave us free will to “opt” for eternal salvation with Him. . . not random acts by any means. I know we are limited by our human mind to the motives of God, but, what say you?

    • GaryM,

      Since God is perfect, He doesn’t create on account of any neediness on His part. Creatures love things because they are good. But this isn’t how it works with God. Things are good because God loves them.

      “Love” here doesn’t mean a feeling, it means willing good to another. God’s willing good to something is the only sufficient cause of its existence, and even of its lovableness.

      God doesn’t create us *because* of love, if by that you mean, by necessity from His will. But He does create us *on account of* love– with His own goodness in view. This is why, although the act of creation is free, it is not random.

      Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

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