Faith, Understanding, and Doubts
Sunday Homily for March 30, 2008
Second Sunday in Easter (A)
by Father Joseph Pellegrino
A man finally got up the courage to do something so many others took for granted. He bought his first ticket for a trip on an airplane. He was really nervous about this. When he got to his seat, a stewardess saw that he was upset and asked him if he was feeling well. "Just the jitters, this is my first time on an airplane," the man said. The stewardess brought him a little touch of brandy to calm his nerves. Then the takeoff was delayed. He became more nervous. The safety directions in the event of a crash didn't help much either. When the engines began to roar, he yelled out, "Stop the plane, I want off." The stewardess tried to reason with him without luck. She finally got the captain who calmed the man down with a simple statement, "Look at it this way, sir. If we didn't believe air travel was perfectly safe, would we have let you pay for your ticket with a credit card."
Every aspect of our lives demands faith. On the natural level we have faith in an airlines to get us to our destination safely. We have faith in our spouses to put family before all other considerations. We have faith in the police, the fire company and emergency workers to help us in times of crises. We put our faith in our doctors, nurses, and pharmacists when we are not feeling well.
On the supernatural level we put our faith in the bible, in the Church and in our God to care for us.
One week after Easter, today's reading confront the fundamental ingredient of all religion, faith. All of our celebrations presume having faith that there is a God who loves us, that he sent his Son to be one of us, that his Son suffered and died for us, but was raised from the dead and shares eternal life with us. We have faith in the Resurrection of the Lord even though we have not experienced it ourselves. Our faith is based on the Word of God in Scripture and on the Presence of God in his people.
But we are human beings. We are often tempted to doubt. Sometimes we doubt deep theological matters, like dogmatic teaching on the Virgin Birth. Most often, though, we doubt regarding very practical every day matters. In times of crises we often doubt the Love of God. Everyone doubts. It is part of the human condition. Even people who claim to have great faith and who go around the world searching for miracles are often seeking a proof for faith. That is not faith. Faith is simply trusting in God.
The Apostle Thomas is presented as a human with doubts, very much like you and me. It is not that he didn't trust the Lord. He didn't trust the other disciples. Thomas could not believe Peter, James, John and the others' stories that Jesus had risen from the tomb. He doubted that Jesus would use them to convey his truth.
The words that Jesus addressed to Thomas were meant for all of us:
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
We have not seen, but we believe. Yes, there is a part of every one of us that doubts. Yes, there are times that we question, particularly when a loved one becomes gravely ill or dies. But we still believe.
In the second reading St. Peter also addresses us:
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
You and I need to pray for faith every day of our lives. We have been exposed to the deepest mysteries of God. We have been called to the sacraments. We need to pray for the faith to accept the sacraments. Faith is the one gift we can be sure of receiving if we ask the Lord for that which we really need.
We worship our Lord not because we have great faith, but because we need great faith.
Blessed are we who have not seen but believe.