“I tackled these two questions separately, one after the other. The first question I had to resolve was on God’s existence. I wrestled with it intellectually and spiritually. I reviewed the arguments for and against the existence of God from what I learned in philosophy, and ended up convinced that on balance, there were more convincing reasons to believe in God. In the meantime, I had to suffer secretly this personal, existential crisis because I felt so ashamed to share it with my seminary formators and co-seminarians since they knew me as someone who had been so sure about my vocation to the holy priesthood. I also prayed very hard, even challenged God to make me ‘see’ him more clearly and intellectually, as I felt I was like someone who has gone suddenly blind. I felt like the three magi who lost their way to where Jesus was. As they were nearing Jerusalem, the star that guided them in their journey from their country in the east suddenly disappeared from their sight.
“Once I have resolved the problem of God’s existence, the question on Christianity as the true religion was surprisingly easier to answer. I read the entire Holy Bible, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, for the very first time. There were many nights that I slept very late. I spent hours reading the Holy Bible in the evening, the only free time I had, sometimes up to 1 or 2 a.m. What convinced me was the power, inner consistency and logic of the words of Jesus in the four gospels. I found his words so precise and so orderly that I thought, this could only come from God, and not only from a great thinker or philosopher. But I also know it was the grace of God that led me personally to him. The crisis of my religious belief lasted for six to seven months, more or less,” explained the good Monsignor.
Whew! Me having some goosebumps from Msgr. Lito’s faith journey sharing. Though I fully agree with him about the “power and inner consistency” of God’s words in the Bible, I have yet to experience it – because, admittedly so, I haven’t read the entirety of the Bible yet.
Thus, I finally asked one last question: From your wonderful faith journey, can you please give some insightful reflections or lessons?
“Here are some, pais. One, take your Christian faith seriously. Resolve issues of faith. Do not sweep them under the rug. Two, Live your Christian faith daily. We see more the beauty of our Christian faith when we live it day by day. For our faith to be alive, it must be lived. And three, nourish and cultivate your Christian faith with more study of philosophy, theology, and even science,” he said.
In closing, Msgr. Lito tried to settle the age-old query raised by the second century Christian apologist and polemicist, Tertullian: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? (Or, in the modern context, ‘What does thought or philosophy have to do with Christian faith’).”
In answer peering through the backdrop of his soulful search for God, Msgr. Lito affirms that indeed “philosophy or intellectual quest can lead to an authentic faith in Jesus of Jerusalem.”
Thus, the good monsignor hurled his parting quip, “Pace (peace), Tertullian. Athens has a lot to do with Jerusalem.”