Q. A friend of mine asked me how you go about seeking out a faith or religion when there are so many different religions based on different beliefs. How do you know what’s right? He said it feels like the story of the blind men and the elephant. None of them has the whole picture. What can I tell him?
A. This question could be answered in either a very complex and philosophical way or in a very simple and straightforward way. I’ll shoot for somewhere in the middle.
I believe the story you are referring to is one in which several blind men are taken to “see” an elephant. Each touches the elephant, feeling a different part. One touches the tusks, one the tail, one the ear, one the trunk, one the side, etc. Each has a different experience of what the elephant is. And each comes away with only a portion of understanding or knowledge of an elephant. Some have suggested that this is what all the many religions of the world do. Each has a small piece of the truth, but no one has the whole picture.
Let me take the analogy further. What would happen if one of those blind men were healed and could now see? And what if that person then had the opportunity to spend many days with elephants? He studied them, watched them, and learned all he could about them. I suggest that this is what our Catholic faith offers: the gift of sight!
It’s an interesting analogy to use here because Jesus is well-known for curing the blind. This miraculous action of Jesus teaches us, among other things, that He desires to open our eyes of faith to see the fullness of Truth. As Catholics, we believe that the fullness of that Truth is found within the Catholic Church. We do not deny the portions of truth that might be found in other religions (such as the truth that we should be kind to others), but we confidently profess that only the Catholic faith presents us with the fullest revelation of what is revealed by God.
The real question is, “How does one discover that fullness of revelation and Truth within the Catholic Church?” This is what we call the gift of faith!
Sometimes faith is misunderstood. One might think that faith is nothing more than believing something. If that’s the definition of faith, then we could have “faith” that there are aliens if we just believe it. Or, I could have “faith” that I’m going to win the lottery tomorrow if I just believe. But that’s not true. True faith begins with God. It begins with God revealing Himself and all that is true to us. He speaks to our consciences in such a way that we gain a spiritual certainty that something is true. This revelation from God then requires our assent. When we assent to, or accept, what God says to us, we suddenly have the supernatural gift of faith and we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that what God has spoken is true.
This might seem confusing, but all I can tell you is that true faith and true knowledge of God is possible. It’s possible to know, without any doubt, that all God has revealed to us, especially through his Church, is true.
I suggest you tell your friend to seek the Truth and be open to the Voice of God. If he is truly open, I trust God will reveal this Truth to him, preparing him for the incredible gift of faith!