The Second Sunday of Easter

THE BENEFIT OF A DOUBT

by John Dalla Costa

Only one week after the exuberance of Easter the Church presents us with the gospel story of Thomas and his doubts. Why this juxtaposition between the glory of Resurrection and the hesitation from suspicion? And why now?

The obvious lesson in contrasting faith with doubt is for us to embrace what St. Paul calls “evidence of things unseen.” (Hebrews 11:1). But something more also seems to be at stake. Thomas’ doubt may not simply be a sign of waywardness, or resistance, so much as a reminder that true faith is always incomplete, and always dependent on community.

This twist on today’s readings was inspired by an exchange between Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Cardinal Borgoglio, in a book they co-authored before the latter was elected Pope Francis. In a heart-stirring dialogue they agreed that genuine faith always involves doubt for the simple reason that we are invited by God to believe in what is forever beyond our human grasp. Faith that erases all doubt is dangerous, presuming a “self-sufficiency” that Borgoglio warns leads persons to “the use of religion for their own ego.”

Doubts can be stumbling blocks, but they also test and purify us; they keep us humble and make space for the grace to encounter what the mystics call the “Cloud of Unknowing.”

Faith is also like the Eucharist – a communal act. If Thomas was skeptical it was in part because he was at first forced to engage the reality of the Resurrection alone. The other disciples had been together when the Lord appeared, so they were able to share their fears and joys, and help one another fashion meaning from this unprecedented event.

In Acts we read that “the community of believers was of one heart and mind.” Paradoxically, we need one another to give doubt its due so as together see what cannot be seen by our eyes on their own.