By Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Sunday after Easter always presents the Gospel of Doubting Thomas. Faith is always going to be met with doubts. This is part of the human condition. Everyone suffers times, often just fleeting moments, when he or she has doubts about the existence of God, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, the Eucharist or other teachings of the Church. We will not be free from all doubts until we see God face to face in eternity.
There is a wonderful story about the great Catholic intellectual, theologian and philosopher, St. Augustine. Augustine was walking on the beach in North Africa trying to come to an understanding of the Trinity, one God in three persons but only one God. So Augustine was walking along when he came upon a little boy doing what children have been doing at the beach for ages. The child had dug a hole in the sand and had a little bucket. He would run down to the water and fill his bucket with water, then run back and dump the water into the hole. He kept doing this over and over. Finally, Augustine said to the child, “Hey, little boy. What do you think you are doing?” The child said, “I’m emptying all the water in the ocean into this hole.” Augustine laughed and said, “You can’t do that.” The child responded, “It is easier for me to empty all the water in the world into this hole than it is for you to fill your mind with an understanding of the mysteries of God.” Rotten kid. He was probably an angel or something.
Another area of doubt comes through physical challenges. A person becomes seriously ill. A loved one dies. A young person dies. It is quite normal for us to ask, “Where were you God when I, when we, were going through this?” God’s answer is that He is with us holding us up, helping us get through and even grow stronger in our faith when it is challenged. Many times people will get through a crisis and then feel horrible that they doubted God, or even His existence. God sees the pain the person is suffering. He is crying with us, just as Jesus cried at the tomb of Lazarus. He tells us to use our challenges to draw closer to Him.
Another time doubt enters into our lives is when someone is attacking us for our faith. Usually they are anti-Catholic bigots, although they would never consider themselves by that name. After a while that wears down on us. Peer pressure takes over and we start thinking that there is something wrong with us if we are not seeing things like everybody else. That is when we really need to shore up our faith and say to others and even to ourselves, “I respect the beliefs of others and simply ask them to respect my belief.”
The most common way that doubts enter into our lives is when we start departing from living a Christian life. Sometimes people in high school or in college get involved with alcohol, drugs, or start having sex, and then they think that maybe their faith is wrong. We cannot separate our faith from our actions. Listen to this carefully: If we stop behaving like a Christian we will soon stop believing like a Christian. Oh, we might say we still believe, but in reality we are just giving lip service to our faith. Many times people just say that they stopped believing; when actually they stopped living the Christian life.
It takes a tremendous amount of humility to have faith. Having faith demands that we recognize that we do not have all the answers to the questions of life. Some answers can only be given to us through faith. If we are too proud to believe, then we limit ourselves only to that which we can see and touch and comprehend with our finite minds.