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Differing faith journeys

Senior school students often ask, “How can you be sure that there is a God?” “Why do you believe in Jesus?” They are not trying to be difficult, just asking difficult questions.

As they grow, these questions loom large in their lives. Young people are surrounded by a variety of views about the meaning of life and it is hard for them to discern the truth.

They are willing to listen and especially open to someone speaking with genuine authority. Quite rightly, young people do not wish to be fooled, either by a plausible adult or their own imagination.

The Easter gospel readings show that the earliest disciples did not have an easy journey to belief. Even though Jesus himself had trained them, they were still filled with doubts.

Luke records the doubts of the disciples. The gospels do not try to hide the reality of doubt. They do not pretend that even the presence of Jesus automatically brought belief.

The Catholic Catechism points out that there are a variety of ways of coming to know God. Our journeys are different. So when we respond to young people we can speak authentically of our own journey and those of others, but not as if it is our own.

This yearning for God leads to a search for the signs of God’s Spirit in our lives. If there is a God, we should experience the presence of God. That is the human grounding of our belief. Even experiencing the absence of God is part of yearning for God.

Our experiences of God can be different. Some people have a sudden conversion. Others have much gentler experiences of God. Both are valid.

Many received faith as children and over the years, made it their own. For others it has been a traumatic journey from the gift of someone else’s faith to finding their own faith.

Many of us experience change in our spiritual lives as we grow and develop. John’s gospel, with its great emphasis on love, was the last to be written.

This resonates with the experience of many believers that, as they grow older, their spirituality comes to focus more and more on love, and love alone.

Indeed, it is in the experience of human love that we come closest to the experience of divine love.

Jesus reminds those early disciples that they are witnesses. The Church today reminds us that we too are witnesses to the same Easter proclamation. At Easter, and at every baptism, indeed at every Sunday Mass, we recite our profession of faith.

But this can become automatic. To be a witness requires us to profess our faith to others. 

In this, we are attentive not only to our own belief, with its doubts and changes, but also we are attentive to the person who is listening to us. This is not just automatic, but a loving proclamation, made with love for the listener.