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Teaching the Catholic faith: where do you start?

Benjamin Being Catholic, God & Faith

It is an exciting moment to be the first person to introduce God to someone who has never met Him before. I once asked a young girl, “Do you know who God is?”

“No” she said.

In a metaphorical sense God is always standing nearby, waiting to be introduced to each new person who comes into to the world. This is the work of the Church, to introduce each person to God. How do you introduce the transcendent, almighty, infinite source-of-all-being to a four-year old?

“God is the one who made everything,” I announced.

“Wow,” she said, and her eyes started to get big.

I can tell you from experience that she will spend the rest of her life trying to fathom what that means:

– God is the “voice” of unimaginable power whose words, “let there be light”, brought the entire physical world, including space and time, into existence, probably at that moment we call the Big Bang;

– God is the genius behind the basic design of living things, including the amazing truth that the most complex animals spring from the simplest beginning: the union of male and female, of sperm and egg, two simple cells that unite to form one single living cell.

You can spend your whole lifetime pondering the wonder contained in that little truth “God is the one who made everything.”

Many Christians, even those who are most committed to the faith, struggle to teach the faith to others because after years of pondering who God is and what He does, their faith has become like a great tree with many branches, and it is hard to know how to pass that all on. Yet every great tree begins with a small seed, and you don’t have to pass the whole tree to a child, only an acorn.

Teaching the Catholic faith is very much like that: it is about taking some very simple and basic ideas and planting them, and then giving them everything they need to grow to maturity.

“God made everything” is a tiny little idea, the first idea in the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” As we water this idea and give in room to grow, it begins to expand in amazing ways:

– Everything was made by God, so everything we see: the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the plants, the animals, it was all made by God. God is the Lord of everything, the maker of heaven and earth.

– When we say “God made everything,” we don’t just mean “all that we can see,” we literally mean EVERYTHING, we mean “all things visible and invisible”. In other words, we believe that everything that exists or that ever existed, every god and force and power and ghost was made by God. It was ALL called into existence by His power, and it is kept in existence by His love.

The little seed that I gave this girl did not have the time to grow that much, but I was surprised at how quickly it started to sprout. A little while later she asked me, “Did God make cars?”

(to be continued…)

[For more on this topic, see Lesson 1 of the book Twelve Lessons on the Catholic Faith].