Spirituality for Today

May 12, 2013

“Are You a Doubting Thomas”

by: Fr. John Catoir


Don’t be too quick to label yourself a doubter until you know all the facts.

There is a distinction to be made between real doubt, and the discomfort we feel when pondering theological mysteries.

Intellectual mysteries are always baffling, but we accept the mystery anyway because we trust the word of Jesus. For instance, I may feel intellectual discomfort when I ponder the mystery of the Incarnation: namely, that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. Can such a thing be possible, God becoming man? Yes it is.  

In spite of my puzzlement, I simply accept it as true. The miracles and majestic teachings of Jesus have all persuaded me to trust Him. Truths of faith are supernatural mysteries, which we accept because Jesus taught them to be true, not because we can prove them scientifically.

There are also scientific truths that go beyond what is observably true. For instance no one has ever seen a subatomic particle, but all scientists know they exist by the trillions.

We accept natural and supernatural mysteries not because we comprehend them perfectly. We accept them because we know intuitively that they are true. Even scientists accept mysteries. True, they use instruments, but they can’t really explain the how of the things they discover.

Back to the original question; are you a “Doubting Thomas”? I think not. May be you feel obliged to admit that you don’t get it, but that’s not the point. We are all lost in the wonder of it.

At the time the Apostle Thomas said he would not accept the idea that Jesus rose from the dead, he was in shock. He demanded to put his finger into his side before he would believe. But he didn’t run away.

Remember, that while the greathearted Peter stoutly tried to dissuade Jesus from facing the dangers in Jerusalem, the doubting Thomas stood up and said, “All right! Let’s go up to the city and die with him.”

Father Bill O’Malley rightly concludes, “Thomas’s (all-in attitude) is evidence enough to show that a critical mind doesn’t preclude a stout heart,” (Notes taken from his private correspondence).

If you feel baffled by the mystery of an afterlife because you can’t imagine what heaven will be like, you may have more of a problem with your imagination than with your faith. Logic is not a friend of mystery. If you live by logic you may become an atheist and miss the joy of supernatural love.

Doubt is a refusal to give assent to a proposition until hard scientific evidence has been shown to verify it. Christians accept supernatural mysteries, not because they have scientific evidence to prove them, but because they have made a decision to trust the words of Jesus.

“Let’s not judge the Doubting Thomas, but praise him,” writes Father O’Malley. “Only humans are burdened with doubts, and a very estimable burden it is. Doubt is to the mind what hunger is to the belly, a discomfort that invites us to a healthier state than we were before…only the truly dull-witted are going to accept a (teaching) or rule based solely on the authority of books written long before anyone knew the Atlantic could be crossed. We’re now living in the most litigious society in history because one’s word, and-a-handshake aren’t enough.”

Don’t be a skeptic. Be patient. Faith will pull you through the fog. Remember the last words of Jesus:
            “I have told you all these things that your joy may be full.”