I was in a religion class when a student asked me the following:
"Can you prove, with actual evidence, that God is even real?"
Taking inspiration from St. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for God’s existence, my reply centered on the fact that it is possible to see that God is the uncaused cause of all around us, that it takes more faith to believe that God doesn't exist (and we're here by happy coincidence), and that everything we regard as true, good, or beautiful is only so because it somehow reflects the truth, beauty, and goodness of God to us.
While the above is an oversimplified answer – and there are no shortage of good, rational proofs for God's existence - a student who asks a question as it was written above, seeking actual evidence, isn't simply looking for a rational or philosophical argument: he wants to see God. This student is no different than Thomas, Jesus' apostle who missed the Lord's first resurrected appearance to them, and had a hard time believing any of it:
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." -John 20:25
It's Thomas' last statement that is probably most relevant here: there are many who seem to choose not to believe, in large part because they are not satisfied with the above evidence that has been offered to them by me, their teacher, our priests, or anyone else.
Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog, or someone who has seen or heard me speak has almost certainly heard me talk about my wife and kids. Chances are less likely, however, that most have ever met them. In the class I was in, only one of 25 students have ever seen my wife (across the Church), and a handful more had seen my kids. I posed the question to them, setting aside the one who had seen her: how many of you believe that my wife exists? Everyone raised their hands. Why? How do you know that I haven't photoshopped myself into wedding pictures, or hired someone to get her to pretend to be my wife? The usual answer I get here is "because you talk about her and your kids, and ultimately, and because we trust you."
One student offered a further answer: "because of the way you talk about her." It was a tremendous statement: the way I speak about her is, at least for this student, an unmistakable proof for her existence.
For the many Thomas' of our world - those who want proof or they will not believe – it’s possible that believing in God is difficult not only because of their doubts and resistances - but because of the way we who profess to believe in Him talk about God? I can speak with great devotion about my wife because of how much I try to devote myself to her, how I put time into my relationship with her whether I'm happy, sad, rested, tired, well, sick, relaxed, overwhelmed, or busy, because she is always before me. I wear a ring on my finger as a reminder of her love and fidelity - and my care for her keeps her ever in my mind and on my heart.
Can I say the same about God? (Can you?)
When people talk about changing the Church to try and re-connect young people with her, it's usually based on some sort of liturgical reform (how we celebrate the Mass) or a change in Church teaching (to catch up to with modern times). I think that the crisis we face as Catholics - really, that all Christians face has nothing to do with either of these issues. The crisis is that we Christians don't talk about Christ in a way that makes people recognize we know Him. And perhaps this is because we don't talk about Him enough... but perhaps it's because we don't know Him well enough. We lack devotion - putting time into this relationship whether we are happy, sad, rested, tired, well, sick, relaxed, overwhelmed, or busy, keeping Him ever before us.
Without discounting the importance of understanding our faith and being able to give well thought out answers to questions about our faith, what may be most needed is that we a) fall in love with Jesus and b) make sure we speak of Him by our life and actions. In this way, students like those I saw on Friday afternoon and any other "Thomas'" will be able to know, without a doubt, that God is real.
Our life in words and actions may be the first - or only - Gospel someone will read. Draw near to Him that it might be an authentic one.
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people. -St. Teresa of Avila