Doubts Lead to Faith that Leads to Action
Divine Mercy Sunday (Easter2B), April 19, 2009
By Fr. Joseph Pelligrino
The Second Sunday of Easter every year has the same Gospel: we usually call it the Gospel of Doubting Thomas. I want to look at the question of doubts and faith from a different direction: human doubt has a positive aspect. Our human doubts can lead to a living, active faith.
First of all the doubts. What if you or I were part of that intimate group Jesus called, but, like Thomas, were not in the room when Jesus first appeared to them after the resurrection. Would we have believed that bumbling fisherman, Peter, those scheming brothers, James and John, that former tax collector and thief, Matthew, that political nutcase, Simon the Zealot, or any of those guys? Probably not. For one thing, these same people, commoners all, believed that they would soon be princes in a new Kingdom. They were delusional.
That was Thomas’s mistake. He was stuck on whom the vehicles of God’s love were. He couldn’t get beyond their humanity. He was not considering that they were only saying what Jesus had said would happen: He would die and rise again. If Thomas had believed the other disciples, he would have been able to see through their superficiality to the fact that Jesus had also picked them to establish the Kingdom of God. If he had not been held back by their humanity, he would have believed what they had to say about Jesus’ Divinity. So often we miss the presence of Christ in others because all we can see is the mistakes they have made and not the good they are doing. Sometimes children and Teens do this when they consider their parents. How can Mom and Dad be so right about Jesus when they are so wrong about their temper, and many other things? Sometimes parents do the same thing to their children. How can he or she be so holy and demand to be allowed to come to Church, when we have had to put up with so many outbursts and tantrums? Thomas doubted because he could not get beyond the humanity of the others to see their pointing to Divinity among them.
There was another reason why Thomas doubted. He was disappointed in himself. Perhaps you remember that when Jesus said he would go to Jerusalem and suffer and die, Thomas said that the disciples should go with the Lord and die with him. But when the time came, Thomas also went into hiding. Thomas must have been horribly disappointed in himself. We have all done this. We have all been disappointed in ourselves.
Doubting in ourselves eventually leads to doubting in God. To be people of faith we have to trust in ourselves as well as others. St. Padre Pio of Petrelcina was once confronted with a man who declared: “I don’t believe in God!”
Padre Pio smiled and replied, “But God believes in you.”
God loves me unconditionally. God forgives me. God is with me. I can cross from doubt to faith when I reflect on the tremendous love that God has for me as I am, a frail human who trusts himself even less than he trusts others. It is not easy to take the step, the leap really, and trust in ourselves, trust in others and, ultimately, trust in God. It is like the true story about little blind Jason. Jason was ten years old and lived with his Father in an apartment building in New York City. One day the Father stepped out to get some groceries. When he came back, the fire department was outside the building. The first floors were engulfed in flames, and Jason was standing on the ledge of a window sill. His father called out from below: “I am here, Jason. Trust me. You can do it. Jump.” And the child jumped into the safety net and into his Father’s arms. Sure I might doubt my own abilities, and perhaps I should. Maybe I am not all that sure about the faith of others, but I have to trust that God also works through them. I can jump. I can take the leap into faith when I realize that God is there to catch me. He loves me. He forgives me. He is with me.
Once we leap into faith, we have to live it. That is how we share it. One of the greatest stories of a person finding faith took place here at St. Ignatius a number of years ago. Well, I am sure there are many great stories I could share with you, but one particularly stands out in my mind. Some of you know the story and the people involved. Hopefully, no one is embarrassed for behaving as Christians.
A young family moved into our parish and into their dream home. They were only there for a few months when the father came home from work, got out of his truck and collapsed. The doctors found a brain tumor and could do little to cure him. The neighbors, mostly all members of our parish, rallied around the new family. The women helped take care of the children while Mom took Dad to the doctors. More than that, they became their friends and their support. The men spent time with the Dad. Someone was always there when he was home to chew the rag, share sport stories, hunting stories, what have you. Then the worst happened. The neighbors were not going to let Mom deal with this alone. They even went with her to the hospital room and cried with her when Dad passed on to the Lord.
I did not know about any of this until after Dad died. I went to visit Mom. She was adamant: I want you to thank these people for what they have done for us. Shortly after that, Mom decided to become Catholic. She had experienced a living faith and wanted to be part of it. Yes, the neighbors all had doubts about themselves. None of them would tell you that they were great people, even though they were. But all of them leapt beyond self doubt into a living faith.
And this is what we are all called to do throughout out lives. We are called to get over ourselves, more, to go beyond ourselves. We are called to get over our own doubts and to live as Christ called us to live. We are called to live who we are: Risen sons and daughters of Christ, people of a Living Faith.