Doubt and Faith

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By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy

“Jesus showed patience, forgiveness, and mercy when he appeared to Thomas. He said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” But prior to these assuring words he said to them, “Peace be with you.” ”

v26A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” v27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!”v28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”v29Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!” – Read: John 20:19-31.*
After the resurrection, undeterred even by the presence of doubt, Jesus repeatedly appeared to his disciples. Though the nature of Jesus’ resurrected body evoked mystery and wonder, the purpose of his appearances was the nurture of enduring belief that makes abundant life possible. Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples. When the others told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, Thomas famously said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” In community, the disciples found faith in the risen Christ. Thomas, for some reason, was not with them when the Lord came. Separated from the community, he found faith more difficult. Faith in the Lord, while personal, is not a private affair. In the faith of one, the faith of another may be strengthened. Formation in faith for the disciples had its communal experience – together they learned and found faith in the Lord.
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If we look at the Scriptures, most of God’s notable servants struggled with doubts at one time or another. Doubts bedeviled the people of Israel throughout their bondage in Egypt and in their journey of deliverance through the wilderness. Job screamed doubts and laments toward the heavens as he was afflicted with various levels of suffering. Habakkuk cried, “Why, Lord?” and “How long, O Lord?” John the Baptist, whom Jesus considered greater than anyone else who had ever lived, to his last days battled doubts about Jesus as the Messiah. And, of course, the faith of the eleven disciples of Jesus fluctuated to the lowest immediately prior to the crucifixion and in the three days that followed it. In relation to faith and doubt, Thomas was far more a representative figure among followers of Jesus than a bad example. Doubt is a spiritual reality that can lead to deeper devotion to God.
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Thomas was a contemporary man, finding faith hard, like many people today. He was dejected by the others who ran away, the leader, Peter, denied Jesus, his trust in the group of apostles had been brought low rock-bottom. He didn’t want much more to do with them. He had got tired of it all. He wanted to believe but needed some sort of proof. But faith grows within a community. That’s why we baptizechildren because faith grows from the beginning of life. We find growth in our faith through the community – for example, in the Mass, shared Bible study and prayers, sharing our faith in a group, a good spiritual book, sharing our doubts but never closing the door to Jesus, sharing our faith in thanks for what our faith gives us.
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Doubt enables us to get in touch with which is most important and real. In this age of social media, various platforms are bombarded by so many ideas and information vying for our approval. Numerous priorities beg for our endorsement. It can be too much for us if we do not develop a healthy perspective that allows us to make good choices and narrow our loyalties. Doubts aid that helpful process. Doubts force us to examine the whole marketplace of values and finally fix our focus on those which truly matter. Doubts move us beyond the faith of others to the discovery of a faith of our own. Nobody can function long or well on assumptions borrowed from other people. Authentic faith is never second hand. Life-changing convictions form in the crucible of individual personal experiences. We do well to question beliefs that others commend to us. We need beliefs of our own which are processed by our own searching, and yes, doubts.
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I fully agree with one preacher who said, ‘what happened in the meeting of Jesus and Thomas brings me great comfort and encouragement. Doubts do not have to exist outside our devotion; indeed, doubts may be the product of our devotion. We need not deny doubts nor fear them; rather, deal with doubts honestly, taking as long as we need. These doubts can bring us to a moment when silent security replaces questions, peace fills both heart and mind, and the will embraces commitment.’ The very mind voice, which raise troubling questions before Christ, can move to the unflinching assertion of Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” And our liturgical acclamation this Easter, “The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!”
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Jesus showed patience, forgiveness, and mercy when he appeared to Thomas. He said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” But prior to these assuring words he said to them, “Peace be with you.”
What Jesus did on that first Easter evening was to show those frightened disciples the same grace and mercy and forgiveness and love that he always showed. He came and stood among them and simply said, “Peace be with you.” And then, to ease their doubts, he showed them his hands and his side. No wonder the disciples rejoiced to see him! Not only was Jesus alive and among them, he had also forgiven them for all that they had done – and not done – over these last dramatic days.
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Again and again, amid our doubts and fears, and in the midst of our sin and failings, our crucified and risen Lord and Savior comes to us and says: “Peace be with you.” Again and again, he comes to us and says, “Do not doubt, but believe.” Again and again, Jesus forgives us, breathes new life into us, and offers us the gift of new life in Christ, and the promise of the Holy Spirit.And again and again, our risen Lord reminds us of our mission; to go and share the peace and the joy and the hope of this new life, with our world that struggles to find peace, joy or hope. Again and again, the risen Jesus comes to us. To give us peace, to give us new life, to forgive our sin, and to gently remind us not to doubt but to believe. And again and again, he invites us to go. To go in peace, to serve our risen Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith;through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Second Sunday of Easter Collect, BCP).***


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