Thursday, July 3, 2008

I Doubt It...

“I doubt it.” How many times a day do you think it? We doubt the superficial and irrelevant all the time I suppose. It’s going to rain this afternoon. I doubt it. Or maybe My NASCAR driver is going to win, and the new UK coach will win the championship this year. I doubt it. Sometimes we doubt ourselves – and that’s a little more important, a little less superficial. I’m going to exercise this week. I doubt it. Or maybe I’m going to spend quality time with the kids. I doubt it. Maybe it’s ever deeper. I’m doing a good job as a mother or father. I doubt it. Maybe somewhere inside there’s even sometimes a more fundamental question: I’m a good person – lovable and loved. I doubt it. Yes, doubting it can be quite a lot more than superficial and irrelevant. And it seems sometimes our doubting doesn’t just stay confined to one area of our life. If we’re doubters (and, we can probably admit it, right… we’re all doubters sometimes, aren’t we??) If we’re doubters – we’re doubters even about the most important things at times: The hairs on your head have been counted… I knew you before you were in the womb… You are a child of God… God made you specifically, exactly the way you are… God loves you… You have been forgiven… You are special because of who and how you are in God’s eyes… Hmmmm…. Do we ever ‘doubt it’?
Prove it! That’s what we say. Prove it! We say it about the superficial and irrelevant doubts. We say it to ourselves. ‘Talk is cheap… the proof is in the pudding… show me what you’re made of… I don’t believe it.’ We’re proof-oriented people. Sometimes our doubt is so strong, we don’t even acknowledge our desire for proof. Sometimes, we know we’re not supposed to doubt, and we can’t even acknowledge it to ourselves – not to mention someone else; or God – that we doubt. It’s part of the mask we sometimes wear to feel better and safer and more secure in ourselves and our lives and our faith… because sometimes this illusion of security and steadfastness is – we think – all that can make the genuine doubt or fear or loss of anchor or anxiety livable.
Consciously or not, we think ignoring, burying, or hiding our doubts is the best solution to overcoming them. And perhaps this is a result of the most fundamental doubt of all that sometimes plagues us. The doubt that if we doubt we’re somehow less human, less acceptable, and less lovable by God. So we get on that bandwagon that has lashed St. Thomas all these years… ‘Don’t be a doubting Thomas,’ we say. ‘He’s such a doubting Thomas,’ someone says and we nod our heads. And we hear a homily rebuking the sin of doubt (and it is, after all, rebukable) – and we nod our heads, and bury our doubt even further within… doubting that our fragile faith would survive the fear and ridicule that surely would be ours for being ‘a Thomas’; perhaps even more afraid of how God would view our doubts… if we were to ever bring that idea any closer to mind than the extreme boundary of our consciousness where even now we probably try to push the possibility aside.
You may doubt that you doubt – but I know I do. God save me, I doubt. Sometimes about big things in big ways. Other times about little things in big ways. But sometimes doubt follows me about like a shadow. And when I try to dress it up, or make it disappear, or ignore it, all I do is add layers and layers of makeup masking myself from my brothers and sisters… and more disastrously, masking myself from God. When I cover up my doubt because “Good Christians” or “Good Catholics” or “Good Seminarians” or “Good Priests” don’t doubt – well then, all I’m doing is hiding my face from the God who loves me; just like Adam and Eve hiding their nakedness from God in the garden. Oh… but what my heart longs for is to stand face to face with Him, to reveal myself completely to Him in the light of truth… and chase away the doubt with knowledge and experience of being known and loved… without the makeup covering the doubt. Yes, what my heart truly desires is elimination of doubt… but you see, we can’t do that unless we acknowledge it, look at it in the light of day ourselves, forget our pretensions about whether or not we ‘should’ doubt… and get to the truth of it. And then, oh friends… then we’ll see that we can hand our doubt to God… and put our hands in the nail marks of our Lord’s hands… and believe.
Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. An apostle whose words we all seek to make our own: “My Lord and my God.” Thomas’ doubt flowered into faith – a faith that is available to us all. Doubt isn’t disastrous to our faith – unless we keep it hidden, unless we hide it from even ourselves. No, my brothers and sisters, doubt that is offered to God in the light of truth, it flowers into faith. Because our Lord is always there to invite us to believe – if we invite Him into our doubt. Don’t be afraid of your doubt.
What do you doubt today? Can you say it clearly in your mind? Can you accept and own whatever doubts you really have? Do you doubt you have the strength to carry you another step down a difficult path? Do you doubt that God can bless and strengthen your marriage? Do you doubt you have been or are a good parent or spouse? Do you doubt God can love all of you – sin and all, imperfections and all, doubt and all? Do you doubt that God has called – is calling – you to a vocation that is specifically yours; a vocation to marriage, or a vocation to priesthood or religious life, a vocation to single life? Do you doubt you have what it takes to acknowledge that call – to follow that call? Do you doubt you can overcome some sin – some addiction, some pattern of living that seems to hold you prisoner? Do you doubt…? Today, don’t hide from it. Today, learn from Thomas. Today, remove the mask… stand face to face with our Lord and say, “My Jesus, I’m sorry… but I DOUBT.” And listen as our Lord, softly and tenderly – without rebuke, without disappointment – but rather with love, and compassion, and joy at the trust in Him you’ve shown to share your doubt with Him – listen as our Lord gently takes your hand, shows you the Truth that you are most loved by Him… experience today the relief of letting go of that doubt as it fades into the knowledge and experience of a risen God who calls you for His own.
The only doubt that destroys is hidden doubt. When you share your doubt with God, it will be transformed into faith. Thomas only doubted until he gave the doubt to the Lord. Taste and see, beloved, that the Lord is good.

My Lord Jesus – I doubt. Right now in my mind, I face my doubt. Right now in my mind I give it to You. Right now… right now I give You my doubt. I won’t hide it any longer. Turn my doubt to faith. My Lord and my God. Amen.
St. Thomas, pray for us, that we may too receive faith from our doubt.

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