Recently, Dorling Kindersley (a British publisher of some very classy children’s books) did some research among 1,500 parents and children aged eight to twelve.
The research showed two things: children are asking their parents the Big Questions—the questions people have asked since the dawn of time—and their parents regard such questions as “unanswerable.” It’s a sad thing that Western education is apparently now fine-tuned to leave parents completely unable to give a morsel of food to the deepest hunger of the human soul: the hunger for God, for life, and for meaning.
The Catholic Faith, however, still teaches that the Big Questions indeed have an Answer named Jesus Christ and that it is the glory and duty of parents to help their kids meet him. To that end, I offer, as a lay Catholic parent, the following responses to the questions the kids were asking—some of the most important questions a kid (or a human being) can ever ask:
Does God exist?
If God made us who created God?
No one created God. God is the Creator. Everything you see around you is a “creature”. That doesn’t mean it’s a monster like Godzilla or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It means it is created—a thing made of “creature stuff”. And because that’s all we see, it’s natural to think that everything there is (including God) is also made of “creature stuff”. But God is not “made” of anything. God is “eternal stuff”. Creatures “have” being that they borrow temporarily from God. God is Being. He always was and always will be.
What does God look like?
God looks like Jesus Christ. If you have seen him, you have seen the Father, says Jesus. 2000 years ago, God the Father sent his Son, who is just as much God as the Father is, to take on a human body and brain and be born as a human baby. That’s what Christmas celebrates: the day that God became human. The baby’s name was Jesus and he was born for one reason: to show us what God was actually like and to make it possible for us to know him. The greatest way Jesus showed us what God is like was by offering to give up his life for us by dying a terrible death on the cross so that we could be saved from sin and everlasting death.
Why is the world here?
The world is here because it was God’s good pleasure to make it. God didn’t have to make the world nor did he need the world to entertain him like a TV show. Instead, God made the world for the same reason you like to do nice things for the people you love, or draw pictures or tell stories: because you love doing it. God loves beauty and he loves to create, like an artist. He is so full of creativity that no single thing he creates can express everything about him. So he created zillions of things, all of which express a little about him. The bigness of space reflects a little of the bigness of God. The roar of the ocean reflects a little of his power, the beauty of the flower shows a little of God’s beauty. The brightness of the sun shows a little of his light in our hearts. The silliness of a puppy shows a little of his joy. Most of all it was his good pleasure to make you and me, because he has had us in his heart since before the beginning of the world.
Why are we here?
You and I were invited into existence by God so that we and all his saints could be happy forever with him in Heaven. You are here because God loves you so much he made you especially for himself (and for us, your family, who also love you no matter what, forever and ever). You are here to get to know God, to learn to love him and live out his life in this world so that you can get ready for the perfect happiness of Heaven. Jesus is your teacher and helper through his Church, the sacraments, and through the people you love and are loved by.
Why are people bad to each other?
People are bad to each other because they love themselves more than they love God or other people. When they do that, and other people or God get in the way of something they want, they hurt the other people and God to get it. It’s called “sin”. We all do it. And it makes God even sadder than it makes us.
Why is there so much war in the world?
This may sound strange, but it’s because people are hungry for the happiness of God. If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is. Sin is basically crazy. Sin means putting yourself before God. People don’t want to put themselves after God and obey him, which is the only way to be really happy. So they try to steal happiness by beating up their neighbors and taking things they think will give them happiness. Some people think that a lot of money will make you happy. Some think that a lot of toys will do it. Some think you can be happy if you are strong enough to make everybody think and do what you want them to. Some people are afraid of poverty, sickness or death. So they do bad things to other people because they think that will keep them safe from these bad things. But what we all have in common is that we want happiness. However, happiness comes from God, not from these other things. And the way God makes us happy is by teaching us to be like Jesus, who didn’t beat people up and take their stuff, or treat people badly just to escape something he was afraid of. Instead, he loved everybody, and was willing to die, even for the people who hated him. That’s really hard to do—so hard that we can only do it with Jesus’ help. And many people would rather have wars than try it.
Do you know why Jesus wept?
He wept because he was angry at death and the sin that causes it. He was so angry that he fought it and beat it so that we could live forever. The little picture he gave of what he was going to do happened when he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. That showed he had power over death. But the main event happened when Jesus allowed himself to be beaten up and crucified—nailed to a cross till he died—and then rose from the dead to a whole new kind of life where he would never die again.
Is there life after death?
Yes. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and promised that we would be with him in his Father’s house to live eternally. He made sure his disciples understood that he wasn’t just a ghost or a something they were imagining. 500 people saw him at the same time and many of them even ate with him and touched him with their own hands. He promised that what God had done for him, he would do for everybody who showed their trust in him by doing as he said to do.
If God is everywhere why do we have to go to church to see him?
Mom and I always love you no matter where you are, but it’s better when we can give you a hug and a kiss and enjoy talking with you. Church is where God talks to us through the Bible and touches us through the sacraments. Sacraments are the kisses of God. Jesus himself gave them to us so that we would always have a sure way of receiving the life and love he means to give us. Mass is the way we learn how to exercise our bodies and souls so that we can go out stronger to meet God in the world and serve him in people.
Why can’t we ring God up?
You can. It’s called “prayer”. You can talk to God anytime you like. He probably won’t answer in a voice you can hear (though it does happen from time to time). Usually, he speaks to us through the teaching of the Church, through the Bible, and through wisdom from people he puts in our lives such as saints, friends, teachers, and parents.
Why do I believe in one God while my Hindu friend believes in lots? And is my God the same as my Jewish friends’?
You believe in one God because you are blessed to live in a place where the Good News was accepted and took root. The Good News was that the God everybody has been looking for since the beginning had finally become the man Jesus Christ, died for our sins, and rose from the dead so that we could defeat sin and death. Everybody in the world is seeking him (which is why you are asking these questions) and everybody has been seeking him since the world started.
But because we are also limited and (especially because our thinking gets gummed up by sin) there was a long period between when the world began and when Jesus came. In that time, most of us lost track of him and sometimes tried to satisfy our hunger for God by making up stories about “gods” who were more like Big People with Magic Powers. Storytelling is a great thing, and some of the stories reflect some real truths about the real God. But if people start believing the stories to be true, it can cause a lot of problems. That’s why God said not to believe in any God but him.
He especially said that to the Jewish people. They were the first people in the whole world that he picked out and chose to reveal himself. He took a very long time to help them understand that he was real, that there was just one of him, and that he loves us and wanted us to love him and each other. The point of all this was that he was getting them ready for the biggest surprise of all: he was getting ready to become a human being himself and, what is more, a fellow Jew!
Many Jews believed him. However, many others (especially their leaders) didn’t. And that is still true today. Some Jewish people believe he is the Son of God. But most Jews don’t. However, even though they don’t believe in him (often because Christians have been very mean to them), God is still faithful to the covenant (that means “agreement”) he made with them and he promises that one day they will realize that Jesus is who he says he is. That’s why they are still his special people today, because God keeps his promises. Till then, we are to love our Jewish friends because they are sort of like our Older Brothers and Sisters since they were the first to hear the word of God.
Does God have a Mom?
Yes. Her name is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Jesus is the only person in the world who ever got to pick his Mother. That’s because Jesus is God and, along with his Father and the Holy Spirit, is the Creator of everything, including Mary. When he became human he chose her as the one who would give birth to him and raise him. Jesus said we should call her our mother as well and told her to love us as us she loves him. If you aren’t sure what to do, Mother Teresa made it pretty easy: “Love Jesus as Mary loves Jesus and love Mary as Jesus loves Mary.”