Here at our university I teach courses in Christian theology. Students frequently drop by my office and confide that they are questioning their faith. And they often ask me, “Why do you believe, Father? Have you ever questioned your faith?”
Why do I believe? The question is not easy to answer. I do know that faith is a gift from God and that ultimately my personal faith flows from my acceptance of this gift.
However, this is not what the students are asking. They are asking what human reasons make me able to accept this gift from God.
Over the years I have thought about the question much. I can come up with many reasons that make it reasonable to believe, but one reason does stand out above all others. And I have to admit it surprises me. When I have been faithful to living the Gospel I have found peace and happiness; when I have not been faithful I have lacked that peace. In short, faithfulness to living the Gospel is my path to the greatest peace and happiness. This is the greatest human support for my faith.
A very ordinary example can help show what I mean. Like all of us, I am occasionally unjustly condemned or criticized by someone. I then have the choice of how to respond to this criticism: I can either forgive the person or I can hold on to resentment. However, when I choose to move toward forgiveness (living the Gospel) I experience peace; but when I choose to move away from forgiveness (not living the Gospel) I lose that peace. Living the Gospel brings peace.
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reaffirm my conviction that living the Gospel brings peace and joy. Jesus invites his disciples to ask anything in his name, and then he assures them that they will receive what they ask “so that your joy may be full.” Jesus is repeating the promise he made earlier in his discourse, “All this I tell you that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15:11)
Faith in Jesus gives us believers the joy that the world cannot give nor take away. This faith, our path to deepest joy, is the greatest gift God has given us.
So when students ask why I believe, the best I can do is to witness to the peace and joy my faith brings to my life. I think my answer gives many students a new perspective to view faith. I hope so.
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