Doubting yet Choosing to Believe: Divine Mercy Sunday

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Minor Altar of the Divine Mercy, Cathedral of St Sebastian, Lipa City, Batangas

“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”

                                                                                    -Frederick Buechner

It has been eight days since we have proclaimed once again the message of Easter, that our Redeemer lives. Same with the first century disciples, the full reality and implication of the Resurrection is hard to take in and takes time to comprehend. And so we find in the Gospel readings of the Easter Octave and throughout this liturgical season that the revelation of the Risen Lord is gradual and progressive and hence, we must grow with it. And we soon find out that it is very difficult to make the God of Holy Week the God of our everyday lives. After all, the peace and joy of the Resurrection is a journey to Emmaus with the Risen Lord, it is a process to recognize Him walking with us. And in this process, doubt has almost always been a part.

What I realized is that we have wrongly attached the moniker ‘doubter’ to St Thomas exclusively. For in reality, most, if not all, of the disciples and the apostles have stubbornly doubted the resurrection before they saw the Risen Lord. And even in the presence of the Risen Lord, some are doubting and still afraid such that Jesus have to explain to them extensively, eat food like a living person and show his wounds to prove to them that it is really Him. The point I would like to make is that we are all permitted to doubt. Even Jesus Himself wrestled with human doubt and anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Doubt is not the opposite of faith but rather a part of the process of believing. It is only when faith passed through the trial of doubt that it becomes purer and stronger and finally transformed into a commitment, a conviction that calls us to action. Doubt is sometimes an expression of faith, of wanting to believe. For we only doubt a fact of which we want to be convinced more of its truth. The important thing is that after doubting, we must choose to move on and take the risk of believing. For faith means never acting upon your doubts but acting upon your convictions.

So how can we move on through our doubts? We must seek the companionship of the disciples, of our fellow believers. St Thomas sought to mourn alone so that he was consumed by his sadness and doubt. He was not there when the Lord revealed Himself in the assembly of the disciples. We must always remember that God reveals Himself in the togetherness of the believers. We must go to the Church when we doubt. When we are full of unbelief, it is all the more that we must seek Jesus in the sacraments. The presence of the Lord is not always clear or obvious. But more often than not, it is not the Lord who is absent, it is us. How will we see Him if we do not want to look for Him? How can we be near if we stay away from Him? How can we be found if we continue to hide uselessly from Him? We may continue to be in doubt because we are alone, lost, distracted, or looking in the wrong place. We can only finally touch His nail marks and put our hands on His side if we ask Him and go near Him despite our fears and unbelief, despite our doubts and worries. Only then will we realize that we may never understand but we can always choose to believe and exclaim with St Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”

Then, we must also create a culture of belief. Our faith as a community of believers must be empowering to those who are lonely, afraid and doubting. If we examine it, how can Thomas really believe the testimony of his fellow disciples about the resurrection if they are still hiding behind closed doors for fear that the enemies of Jesus might also put them to death? Doubt is a cycle and contagious. And so we must be strong in faith for one another. In our assembly, we must find the Risen Christ as unfailing source of affirmation, challenge, enrichment and growth.

Finally, sometimes the doubt that paralyzes us are not intellectual or empirical doubts but rather self-doubt. Moreover, the message of the Resurrection is not just something to believe and hear about but rather something to live and to embody. And so we doubt ourselves and become paralyzed because we think that we are not up to the challenge. And here is where I would like to say something about the Divine Mercy. In the words of Shakespeare, I believe that the Divine Mercy would like to say: “Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.” The Divine Mercy is an assurance that we may always doubt ourselves because of our weaknesses and falls, but we must never doubt His love. For as the Psalmist sings as he tells the whole history of salvation, “Let us sing to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” In the ocean of His mercy, all our weaknesses and falls will definitely be consumed. So we always move on through our doubts by saying: “Jesus, I trust in You.”

1st Reading: Acts 5:12-16

Ps 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24

2nd Reading: Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13,17-19

Gospel: Jn 20;19-31

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