Tag Archives: Doubt

Profound Pity

Jeremiah 3:14-17, Jeremiah 13:10-13, Matthew 13:18-23

But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. (Mt 13:23)

When the apostle Thomas said, “Unless I see the print of the nails and put my finger where his nails were…” (Jn 20:24) we see how stubborn he was in his doubt. It would have been justifiable if he had not immediately believed, for we read, “One who trusts others too quickly is light‑minded” (Sir 19:4).

But to overdo one’s search, especially about the secrets of God, shows a coarseness of mind: “As it is not good to eat much honey, so one who searches into the majesty [of God] is overwhelmed by its glory” [Prov 25:27]; “Seek not what is too difficult for you, nor investigate what is beyond your power. Reflect upon what has been assigned to you, for you do not need what is hidden” (Sir 3:22).

Throughout the Gospels, we see the strongest signs of God’s profound pity. First, in this: that He loves the human race so much that He sometimes allows tribulations to afflict his elect; seeds to fall on thorns and stones; doubting Thomas, Peter’s Denial, etc. God permits this so that from these, some good can accrue to the human race.

God allowed the apostles, the prophets and the holy martyrs to be afflicted: “Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth” (Hos 6:5); “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted it is for your comfort which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Cor 1:6).

This is both remarkable and puzzling. Through profound pity, God allowed some Saints to fall into sin (as David did by adultery and murder) in order to teach us humility through refinement in the furnace.

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio (c. 1601–1602) / PD-US

Certainty

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
– Will Rogers

The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
G. K. Chesterton

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Silence actor Andrew Garfield said, “Certainty about anything is the most terrifying thing to me.”

Colbert responded, “If you knew there was an afterlife, would that be comforting, or terrifying?”

“How would I ever know?” Garfield retorted. “I think it’s healthy – you think about Thomas Merton, the great Trappist monk, and philosopher really, his doubt was his greatest ally, and he was always constantly doubting, and I think a life of faith is not a life of certainty. I think a life of faith is a life of doubt, and I think it is so healthy to doubt, it is so healthy to doubt oneself, it is so healthy to doubt any assumption we make about how to live, and I think what I mean when I say certainty scares me – certainty starts wars on behalf of ideology; certainty – the ‘I know, you don’t’, that’s the scariest thing to me.”

Really, Garfield? Au contraire, I hold that doubt is scarier (and less reasonable) than certainty. Christian certainty comes with humility, the humility of submission to the Truth which is greater than you. The humility of placing yourself completely at the disposal of that great mystery which is God, certain that He will be constant throughout the vicissitudes of life.

Two of my friends are terrifying drivers. However, one is more terrifying than the other. The latter drives too fast – he has accumulated countless speeding fines. One evening, in exiting a carpark, he had three near-misses with two cars and a bus. But I still feel safer as his passenger than with the former friend, who drives too slowly. She is a very hesitant driver, prone to stopping in the middle of oncoming traffic while making a turn. “GO!!!” I once yelled, not wanting to meet an untimely demise. My speeding friend is at least pretty certain about his directions and in control of his car, although not altogether observant of road rules.

It is certainly healthy to examine our assumptions about how to live, but one must come to a conclusion and stick to it. How would your boss like it if you were uncertain about turning up for work? Or how would your spouse like it if you were uncertain about your commitment to one another? It was the Benedictine vow of stability that enabled monastery towns to flourish, developing agricultural technology, education, and ultimately the civilization of Western Europe. When you plant a seed, it is not advisable to keep re-potting it. It needs a definite place to grow. Without certainty, we remain immature, vacillating between competing rules of life. This ultimately results in a fragmented, incoherent mess.

“Certainty starts wars on behalf of ideology” – that is such a cop-out statement. Just because some people have been very certain about erroneous ideas doesn’t mean you should remain uncertain about excellent ideas. Some people are brought up badly, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t even try to inculcate some standards of behavior in your own children. If someone is dead certain about taking the wrong path, should you therefore be deadly uncertain about taking any path?

It is not arrogance to claim certainty when you have good reasons. Would you like your surgeon to be uncertain about where to place his scalpel? Or your dentist to be in two minds about which tooth to pull?

Should we be like Adam and Eve, or Cain, who doubted God’s loving providence?

A life of faith is not a life of doubt. There will be tough times, yes; there will be times of doubt and darkness, yes – but a life of faith transcends the times of doubt, because it is a life of faithfulness and radical trust in the One Who loves us so much that He died for us. Christ’s death and resurrection – that’s a Certainty. Let us imitate Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and say with complete sincerity: “Lord, not my will, but Your will be done.” For we know that is the Way of everlasting life.

All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
– Matthew 5:37

I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.
– Philippians 4:13

If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way.
St. Thomas Aquinas

Etymology: faith (n.)
mid-13c., faith, feith, fei, fai “faithfulness to a trust or promise; loyalty to a person; honesty, truthfulness,” from Anglo-French and Old French feid, foi “faith, belief, trust, confidence; pledge” (11c.), from Latin fides “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,” from root of fidere “to trust,” from PIE root *bheidh– “to trust”.

Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.
Pope Benedict XVI

Images: “Fork in the road“/PD-US; CatholicGag; Signum-Crucis

On Thomas, Doubt, and Being an Outsider

Have you ever felt like an outsider amongst a group of people who all shared a similar experience? Sat awkwardly in the background as they joyfully reminisced? The fact that you missed out on whatever it is that the rest of your acquaintances lived through can possibly leave you feeling isolated and uncomfortable.

I imagine that’s how Thomas the Apostle felt when he returned into hiding in the Upper Room after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Today is his feast day, and we owe some attention to this valiant Apostle who often gets a bad rep and who inspired a universally employed nickname.

Our Doubting Thomas returned to the Upper Room from, well, we don’t know where he was or what he was doing out of hiding. What we do know is that while he was away, Our Resurrected Lord appeared to the rest of the Apostles for the first time since His death, and Thomas missed it. Talk about bad timing.

When he was reunited with the rest of the Apostles, the atmosphere in the Upper Room had shifted dramatically. Thomas was greeted by his excited and enlivened friends who exclaimed to him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25). Imagine the mix of emotion Thomas must have been flooded with: happiness, confusion, hope, disappointment. Emotion that, undoubtedly, you and I would have felt similarly.

Overwhelmed, Thomas doubted the truth behind the other Apostles’ claim. Because he did not share in their experience, how could he be sure? Thomas most certainly felt like an outsider, as is evident by his over-the-top refusal to believe unless he placed his hands inside the very wounds of Jesus.

We know the rest of the story. Days later, Jesus once again returned to the Upper Room. This time, Thomas was present, and was very much the focus of Our Lord. What the Savior does in this moment, although so simple and subtle, bears incredible significance.

Take a minute and think about how Our Lord could have acted toward Thomas. Had He not proven His omnipotence enough during His ministry by healing the blind and lame, forgiving sins, and raising the dead? Was His own Resurrection, then, so inconceivable to Thomas, who had witnessed all these miracles? Jesus could have utterly reprimanded Thomas; but, as per usual, He instead approaches His Thomas with the most merciful tenderness.

Thomas

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:27).

Although Thomas had previously missed out on the initial encounter with the Resurrected Godman, had been left on the outside, Jesus ultimately and literally brings him inside Himself, into His Heart. Our Lord’s love for Thomas is so great, so all-encompassing, that He transforms the outsider into the one who is closest to Him. Yes, Thomas momentarily doubted the Lord, but the Lord never doubted Thomas.

Let this, then, be a lesson for us. The Lord is close to the outsiders; and they are often the ones who are invited into the deepest of intimacy with Him. Just as He humbled Himself to meet Thomas in the midst of his doubt, He never ceases to reach down to us in our littleness and frailty, in our own doubt and lack of faith, to pick us up and bring us into Himself. So in our moments of weakness, we would be wise to remember the example of St. Thomas, who, although he wavered for a moment, was a bold disciple of Christ, loving Him to the point of death with an unquenchable passion. Then, once united with the Lord in such intimacy, we too may profess undoubtedly along with Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Doubting Thomas

I love Easter! I love the readings, the flowers, the extra Alleluias, the joy and of course the Resurrection.

During our weekly staff meeting our priest loves to lead us in a small Lectio Divina of the upcoming Gospel for Sunday. This weekend’s Gospel comes from John 20: 19-31. Growing up I always knew this story as the one of “Doubting Thomas” and even then, I didn’t know what to make of it. In my opinion, Thomas gets a bad rap.

“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

John 20: 24-25

Even when I was younger I wondered, where was Thomas? The streets were not safe for the Apostles. On Holy Thursday, Peter was almost captured to be prosecuted with Jesus, and by now news had spread that Jesus’ body had gone “missing.” The Apostles were hiding in a locked room when Jesus appeared and we find out that Thomas was not hiding with him. In my opinion Thomas was either very brave or very stupid. With everything that was happening in the region at the time, there must have been something very pressing for Thomas to leave the safety of that room.

Thomas was also very intelligent, he asks for very specific proof. Thomas knew the brutality that Jesus endured and that if Jesus was truly risen, there would be some marks left. Even scientists today look for very specific outcomes and if their results do not fit the norm, they question why. It is also very normal to question in order to understand. I do not think that Thomas asked this question because he did not want to believe but rather that he did not know how to believe. All the Apostles were still grieving Jesus’ death prior to seeing him again, and since Thomas hadn’t seen, we was still grieving.

“Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

John 20: 26-29

Faith in Action

Thomas has my favorite “light bulb” moment in the Bible, “My Lord and my God!” Not just “oh hey, it is you,” or some other greeting but my Lord and my God. When Peter was answering about who Jesus was, Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”  Matthew 16:16 (emphasis mine) but Thomas fully admits that Jesus is Lord. No doubt, no hesitation, just bold.

On top of everything, this weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday. If you are not familiar with the devotion to Divine Mercy you can check it out here. St. Faustina received many messages from Christ and often was described as “Jesus’ secretary.” The most important messages were about Christ sending his Mercy out on the world. The message can be boiled down to this 1. Ask for Christ’s Mercy 2. Be Merciful 3. Completely trust in Jesus.

In the Gospels we hear many pursuing faith and asking for help with their unbelief. We are completely human. We are limited and flawed, and because of this doubt is only a part of the human condition. Even though we doubt, with the help of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we have the same boldness of St. Thomas and all the Saints every time we say “Jesus, I trust in you.”

If you have never prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet or it has been a while, please take a look at this web page from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, How to Recite the Chaplet.

Happy Feast of Divine Mercy!

[author][author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Amanda-e1319548807143.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Amanda Castro is a Youth Minister and Director of Religious Education at a small rural Iowa parish. Some of her students have begun a crusade to try and stump their youth minister, even so far as asking the local Bishop for help. If they could have remembered the Latin they would have succeeded too! Aside from being happily newly married to her best friend, her passions include (but are not limited too) her 9 nieces and nephews, the Mass, Adoration, and photography. You can find her new blog at Defined by Faith.[/author_info] [/author]