52 Questions and Answers about faith: Question 1 – Is believing exceptional?

What do Christians believe? How Christians live out their faith? How do you live out your own faith?

We are inviting you on a journey of exploration and reflection through a series of articles written in a conversational language about Catholicism, about God, about Jesus, about the Church and many other faith related topics.

These fifty-two basic but essential questions regarding Christianity are from the book “Did Jesus Really Exist? And 51 Other Questions” by Nikolaas Sintobin SJ, a Flemish Jesuit and author published by Messenger Publications. The questions and answers are taken from life: is faith for simple souls? Did Jesus really exist? What do people do in heaven? Is God a judge who condemns? Why should you forgive yourself? Does suffering make sense? Are the other religions wrong? Has Jesus laughed? Each answer takes a maximum of two minutes to read.

There are different ways in which this resource can be used. Take time for yourself once a week for each of the 52 weeks in a year and reflect on one of the questions. Teachers of Religious Education and School Chaplains can use these key questions to support their work in schools. It could also be used as the focus for a conversation among family and friends, with a parish book club or with a prayer group.

The story that is opened up for us here is a meditation on the whole of life and on our relationship with God. It uncovers for us the mystery of God and the mystery of humanity too. Perhaps this is the moment to look further and deeper into Christian faith as well as into the many ways in which the Christian life can be lived well today.” (Foreword by Dr Gareth Byrne)

The journey starts today, on Easter Sunday 2020 and continues for the forthcoming Sundays. The articles featuring the weekly questions and answers will be linked to the preceding and following article.

Question 1 – Is believing exceptional?

Every human being believes, for believing is actually just as normal as eating, drinking and breathing. Think of a little child who learns to ride a bike. The child firmly believes that their father or mother will intervene immediately if something goes wrong. Think of a young man who is going to marry his girlfriend. He can never be one hundred per cent sure that she really wants to live with him all his life. He dares to take on this adventure anyway because he believes in it. He trusts her. It is certainly no coincidence that both Latin and Greek – two languages that are important in the history of the Christian faith – use the same word for trust and faith.

Complete certainty is exceptional. There are always things you do not know, and that require you to take a leap into the unknown. Often you do this with your eyes closed, more often you don’t even realise that you are jumping. Trusting in others is essential to being human. From day one in this world, life teaches you that you have to trust others to get on.

When it comes to believing in God*, things get a bit more complicated. The child who learns to cycle sees and feels that their father or mother is close. You cannot see God, and that makes the jump into the unknown a lot bigger.

Maybe you’ve heard people say, ‘I wish I could believe in God’. Believing is not something you can just decide on. It takes more than that. Believing in God – but also trusting people – is something you have to experience over and over again.

  • Do you find believing easy or difficult?
  • Do you notice any change in this over the years?

Feel free to leave your thoughts, reflections, comments below.

Watch this space! Coming up: Question 2 – Is Faith for simple souls?


About the author:

Nikolaas Sintobin, SJ, joined the Society of Jesus in 1989, following a short career as a lawyer. He was trained as a Jesuit in Brussels, Paris, and Santiago de Chile. Today he is a spiritual director who is keenly interested in online ministry and discovering new ways to help people find God.

This text is republished with the permission of Messenger Publications, Ireland. To buy a hard copy of the book click here.