Experiencing doubts about your faith is a common experience. Sometimes people have difficulty believing in the existence of God. Others are uncertain about whether Jesus Christ is truly God. There are also those who struggle to accept various teachings proposed by the Church. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas, often called “Doubting Thomas”. He is something like the patron saint of those who doubt. By looking at His life we can discover an important lesson about the role of doubt in the life of Christians.
From the Gospel we learn that Jesus is there to support us when we experience doubts. When we struggle with disbelief, Christ will always be there to help us, to help lead us back to belief in Him. Initially Thomas doubted the Resurrection. When the Apostles told Thomas that they had seen the Risen Christ, he doubts it. He says he cannot believe it unless he sees it with his own eyes. The interesting thing is that Thomas keeps searching. Though he has doubts he continues to spend time with the Apostles. Thomas does not walk away. Because Thomas keeps searching, Jesus has an opportunity to reveal Himself to Thomas, to show Thomas the holes in His hands, feet and side. Likewise when we experience doubt it is important for us to continue searching. We should never give up when we experience doubts. When we do this Christ will work in our life to satisfy our struggles with the faith. He can do this in many different ways. For example, if we have difficulty believing in the existence of God, perhaps through the beauty of a sunset we will be convinced that there must be a loving God who created this. Or if we are struggling with a particular teaching of the Church, through a conversation with somebody or through a book that we may read, the issue may all of a sudden “click” in our mind, it may make sense like it never has before. As long as we continue to search for the truth when we experience doubt, Jesus will eventually satisfy our doubts as He did for Thomas.
After experiencing struggles in our faith it is possible to become a great follower of Jesus Christ. Once our doubt has turned to belief we can become a more fervent and effective follower of Jesus Christ than before. In the Gospel we see this already with St. Thomas. After Jesus appeared to Thomas, Thomas proclaims what is one of the strongest declarations of faith in the New Testament: “my Lord and my God”. After the Ascension of Jesus, Thomas went on to become a great missionary. Ancient tradition tells us that St. Thomas travelled through the Middle East and eventually settled in India. All along the way Thomas spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many Christians in India call themselves “Thomas Christians” because they recognize that their faith came to them through Thomas. I think that Thomas was so great a missionary because he himself had first struggled with doubt. This made him better suited to tell other people about the Resurrection of Jesus, people who would also experience doubt about the whole idea. We find a modern day equivalent in Jacques Maritain, a great French philosopher who passed away in 1973. As a university student, Maritain struggled to believe in God. One day his life changed forever when he heard a lecture by the philosopher Henri Bergson. He was convinced that absolute truth does indeed exist and eventually entered the Catholic Church. Maritain went on to become a great philosopher, defending belief in God and the Christian worldview. Maritain was able to do such a great job defending the faith to those who were skeptical because he himself had first experienced doubts in his own journey. His life shows that once our doubt has turned to belief we can become a more fervent and effective follower of Jesus Christ than before.
At different times we will all probably struggle with doubt and uncertainty in our faith. As long as we continue to search for truth in the midst of our doubt, Jesus will eventually make things clear to us. Today let us commit ourselves to never stop searching for the truth when we struggle with doubts about our faith.