The Faith of a Teenage Skeptic

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Dear Bishop Tobin: Ever since I was a child I was a skeptic. I had no hope and didn’t believe anything. But now I am ready to be confirmed. It all changed when I started doing service hours and saw people helping others, out of only the kindness in their hearts. It made me realize that only real love could inspire such generosity and kindness, a love felt by those who accept Jesus into their hearts. My attitude changed quickly and I started acting with God in my mind and heart, and now I can’t picture life without my faith.

That’s the core of a letter I received from a 16-year-old student preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Now, it’s not unusual for Confirmation candidates, at the behest of their catechists, to write to the bishop to share a little about themselves and about their preparation for and understanding of the Sacrament. But this letter was special, remarkable really, for its candor and insights.

The key I think is that this young man’s faith was awakened by what he saw in others, that people were serving other people because of love, “a love felt by those who accept Jesus into their hearts.” What a beautiful and powerful statement.

But it’s not a new insight. At the Last Supper Jesus said to his disciples: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35) And Tertullian, an early Church writer, noticed that the pagans of his time were impressed by the behavior of Christians: “See how they love one another!” they said.

In a similar vein, one of the most convincing proofs of the Resurrection of Christ, along with the empty tomb, was the preaching of the apostles. Clearly something happened to change the apostles from weak, timid men to powerful and fearless witnesses of Christ. People saw their courage and conviction, and they too came to believe.

How important is the example we give to others! People will watch us and judge our actions, and either be drawn to Christ or be driven away. Who knows, because of your faith and love, perhaps others will come to believe, maybe even a very skeptical teenager.

Something to think about: Today, try to do just one concrete, positive thing that’s motivated by your commitment to Christ.