“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But Thomas said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them, and said ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put you finger there. See my hands. Reach out and put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.'” ( John 20:24-29 )
We have all heard the phrase, “a Doubting Thomas.” Rooted in the scripture above, it tends to come from the scientific and critical aspect of our culture. We have science to prove or disprove claims. We require evidence to make things a certainty. After all it is said, “seeing is believing.” ut in this day and age, can a faith in Jesus Christ and his deeds from oh so long ago- be rational? We have our holy scriptures and our teachings, but is this something we can hold up to the ‘litmus test’ of debate against a skeptic? A cynic? Someone who; by disaster, tragedy or death of a loved one, demands further proof from us of a loving and compassionate God? We must admit, there are days when even we ourselves, can become a “Doubting Thomas”.
First, it is important to remember Christianity is built upon faith. “For faith is confidence in what we hope for and an assurance about what we do not see.” ( Hebrews 11:1 ) The First Chapter of the Book of Hebrews goes on to serve up as evidence, all those who have lived by faith… Moses, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah… the list goes on and on. For if we are Christians, we truly do, “…walk by faith, not by sight.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:7 ) Life is full of uncertainty. The key is, to surrender ourselves to our faith.
“For to have faith, we must also have doubt. We must become like Thomas…” – Thomas Merton. Merton (b.1915-d1968) was a mystic and social activist, as well as a Cistercian Trappist monk. He wrote more than seventy books on spirituality, including his autobiography – The Seven Story Mountain, a New York Times best seller. From it, he writes, “Faith means having doubt, not the suppression of doubt. The only way to fully overcome you doubt is to live through it. Someone who says they have no doubt, cannot be a person of faith.” Merton agreed with Saint Paul, “To have faith, is a gift from God.” ( ref. Ephesians 28 ) And even centuries earlier, Saint Augustine agreed, “Doubt is but an element of faith.”
In his book, Threshold of Hope, Saint John Paul II wrote; “We must be allowed to have doubt. To search for God and truth on our own terms. To do this is nothing but a manifestation of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work. Questioning God, reveals your faith in him.”
It seems paradoxical; for clerics, religious, or even firm Christians to admit they have doubt. To question faith, even to dare and question God, seems like an insurmountable offense. It can be frightening. Perhaps a sign of weakness or sinful spirit; vulnerable to temptation and even rebellion. But people, good people of faith, facing critical circumstances, terminal illness or unexpected loss, wrestle with these emotions and ‘doubts’ all the time. And they need not be life-altering; even slight bump in the road can cause many of us to question. Just like Thomas. Mother Teresa often wrote of “dark periods of spiritual desolation; questioning whether God cared, loved or even existed at all.”
So when all is said and done, when all is really questioned and considered, we do end up sometimes being Thomas. It is then however, that we must surrender ourselves to our faith. For it is our faith upon which we build everything else. It is on our faith that we fix upon our most trusted and inspired promise given to us by our Lord, Jesus Christ: life everlasting.
Ahhh, I can sense the skeptics circling. Prove to me, there is a life everlasting. No need. Christ tells me so. I have faith enough to believe. In this, I can answer just like a most famous Dominican and yet another Thomas, Saint Thomas Aquinas. Considered one of the great teachers and early doctors of the Church, Saint Thomas said: “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one who has no faith, no explanation is possible.”