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The glory of doubting



This editorial by Andrew Britz, OSB, titled “The glory of doubting,” is from the April 29, 1984, Prairie Messenger and is featured in his second volume of editorials, Rule of Faith: as we worship, so we believe, so we live.

It is not easy to sing the song of Easter. It is easy enough to proclaim that the Lord rose from the tomb some 2,000 years ago, but the church has not made that its Easter song. We are called upon instead to sing that Jesus Christ is risen today.

It is in our less than perfect lives that we must announce the good news of Easter. It is in this world that so lacks justice and fair play that we must present the Saviour.

It is easy for the world to conclude that only fools would ever proclaim that the glory and power, the wisdom and sheer goodness of the risen Lord now reigns supreme. Realists are always ready to point to the sinister factors that too often motivate our western leaders — to say nothing about those in the East.

Practically everything about us acknowledges that the only power the wise in this age know is guns and money. Yet in the presence of these very things, the church insists on its song: today Jesus is Lord.

To state the obvious: The church has a credibility problem. This problem, however, has been around since the beginning. Doubting is not something new, as St. John masterfully reminds us in concluding his Gospel. It is in the story of the Doubting Thomas that we find the culminating profession of Christian faith: My Lord and my God.

St. John has prepared us in his Gospel for this story. Thomas has a basic loyalty about him, but he tends to be rather pessimistic (see 11:16), dense and ignorant (see 14:5). This is hardly surprising since these are the very qualities that usually get in our way when we want to sing of Easter.

With such qualities, Thomas is bound to doubt. By placing this doubt within the apostolic college, St. John teaches us that doubting definitely has its good points.

Doubt has been brought right into the story of the Passover from death to life. Just as death is no longer an evil but a necessary step to true life, so too is doubt.

Doubt makes us part with childish or shallow belief to accept a faith that cuts more deeply into our lives. To make doubt an evil is usually a self-defence against a call to faith which would summon us to a new level of existence.

What we have not doubted is usually not worth believing. Only by doubting was Thomas led to discover that true lordship and divinity was indeed still present in his life and in his world — even though many of his hopes had died with Jesus’ death.

It is hard to imagine a more paradoxical solution to Thomas’ doubts. What a strange proof of divinity: to touch human flesh. What a ridiculous affirmation of lordship: to put a finger into the very causes of the death that so puzzled him.

We tell ourselves we would be better able to sing the song of Easter if there were not so much evil around, if our family and friends were more authentic persons, if our own prayer life were in better shape.

The Gospel narrative of the Doubting Thomas gives us the secret to sing of Easter. It is found in touching the death about us, in acknowledging the flesh, the weaknesses that often overwhelm us all.

The temptation to handle our doubts by withdrawing from the world and its problems must be squarely resisted. Such is the ghettoism that Jesus strongly resisted, even to the point of death. Our Easter faith, by its very nature, comes to life in the political, social and economic issues of this age.

We must accept the paradox of Easter: that death gives birth to life, that doubt is the mother of true faith, and that involvement in the plight of this age refines our vision so that we can discover the lordship and divinity the Father has put at the centre of everything created.