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Faith and Doubt

Today’s Gospel according to John is the familiar story of Jesus appearing to the disciples after His death. But Thomas, who was called the Twin, was not with them at the time and doubted that this was indeed true. Hence the term “Doubting Thomas” one of few biblical references that retains instant recognition.
In “The Genesee Diary” Henri Nouwen recalled that Didymus, the name of Thomas, means, “twin” and that the Fathers of the Church had commented that “all of us are ‘two people’: a doubting one and believing one. We need the support and love of our brothers and sisters to prevent our doubting person from becoming dominant and destroying our capacity ‘for belief’.” And so, we might say that the Church is inviting us to reflect not so much on “Doubting Thomas” as on the living and dynamic faith of the community – the Church – of which Thomas was a part.

While we know that faith is a gift, believing is not automatic or easy. In fact, it is often easier for us to relate to the doubt of Thomas than to the sublime prayer and contemplation of the great pray-ers and mystics of the Church. Acts of terror, the threat of war, violence within our communities and families, discrimination, illness and enduring hunger put our faith to the test. Easter reminds us that there is something more powerful than suffering and death: the love of God who, in Christ, has taken upon himself, our broken humanity. Doubt stubbornly exists. It’s an unshakeable part of life that we can’t seem to get rid of. We doubt ourselves, we doubt whether or not we’ve made the right decisions; we’re full of doubts about the future. It is our nature to choose control over faith almost every time.

When it feels that we can’t control our faith, we can easily give up, especially if it feels like God has given up on us, which is how Thomas may have felt. Faith is hearing God’s clear message in Scripture that we are not alone, that God is with us and He is for us. He gives us peace, peace that comes from knowing that while we may be uncertain about God, God is certain about each of us.
As I was preparing these reflections for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, I found a few quotes that seemed to tie into the theme of faith/doubt. “Doubt discovers difficulties, which it never solves. Believe is the word which speaks life.” “Doubt is a virus that attacks our self-esteem, productivity and confidence. Faith that you and your life are perfectly unfolding is the strongest vaccine.” “Love is strongest when we learn to trust in spite of the doubts.” Pope Francis reminds us, “the Risen Jesus passed on to His Church his own mission of bringing to all the concrete message of forgiveness on the Divine Mercy Sunday. The visible sign of this mercy brings with it peace of heart and joy of the renewed encounter with the Lord.”

Cathy Keirstead

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