Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter: April 19



Above is another addition to my collection of variations on Caravaggio's Doubting Thomas. Photograph by Andy Moxon.


Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:32-35
1 John 5:1-6
John 20:19-31
Link


On the map of human experience,
doubt is a place somewhere between belief and disbelief.

Doubt lives in a heart unable or unwilling
to accept something proposed as true, real,
something to be believed --
as when “Doubting Thomas” told the other apostles,
“I will not believe” what you have told me.

If the opposite of doubt is trust, belief,
and a certain confidence that binds the believer to commitment,
then doubt is that holdout between belief and disbelief
that gives way to uncertainty and mistrust,
to an isolation detaching the doubter from the bonds believing offers.

It’s important to distinguish here between doubt and inquiry,
between doubt and seeking understanding,
between doubt and the pursuit of truth.

It’s one thing to seek to understand one’s faith better and more deeply:
to ask questions, to probe and to test.
It’s another thing to reject what one has come to know and believe
or worse, to be suspect of proposed truth
simply for the sake of being suspect.

It’s one thing to doubt the word
of those who have lied in the name of truth.
It’s another thing to reject the truth proclaimed to be the Word of God.

It would not be an exaggeration
to suggest that we live in a culture of doubt
and that this culture of doubt lives in the Church.

Doubt is the mentor of those convinced
that the individual, not the community, is the arbiter of truth.

I’m old enough to remember a time
when Christians considered doubt a vice
and young enough to see that now, for at least some,
doubt has become a virtue.

Probing study and questioning
have the potential for deepening our roots in faith.

But doubt, left untended, can breed a cynicism that erodes faith,
disables hope, sours trust, and unhinges fidelity
to commitments born of promises made.

The corrective for doubt is not a system of provable conclusions
satisfying the intellect of the scientific mind.
Doubt is overcome, rather,
through a giving over of one’s self in trust and hope
to what the community and the ages hold to be true,
much as loneliness is healed not by any license or guarantee of bliss
but rather a mutual giving of selves, in trust,
to an unknown future -- for better or for worse.

In our own time, a cloud of uneasy doubt shadows many Catholics.

It shades our prayer and sacramental practice, our conversations,
our trust in clergy, our financial support of the Church
and our Catholic identity.

Under this cloud of doubt, many have walked away
from the prayer and life and work of the Church.

The journey from doubt and disbelief to faith
follows the path of self-giving.

The Church needs to expose its vulnerability
and invite those who doubt and those who have left
to touch the Church again as Christ invited Thomas
to probe his wounds.

And those in doubt, those who have left,
need to reach again in trust and touch the life of the Church,
the life which was once theirs and which still promises peace.

Thomas made his way from doubt to faith by staying with the apostles
even after he refused to believe that Jesus had risen.
It was in the company of other believers
that Thomas met the risen Christ
whose divine mercy and peace drew the doubter to truth and faith.
In the prayer and work of the Church the risen Jesus
continues to come to meet us,
to invite us to touch him,
to draw us out of our doubt to faith.

Whether we come in doubt of faith this morning,
we join, here, the company of believers.

Approaching this altar,
and taking the bread and cup of the Eucharist,
let us all say, with Thomas, the doubter,
“My Lord and my God!”

-ConcordPastor

8 comments:

Missy Francis said...

Amen!

I especially like this: "The journey from doubt and disbelief to faith
follows the path of self-giving.

The Church needs to expose its vulnerability
and invite those who doubt and those who have left
to touch the Church again as Christ invited Thomas
to probe his wounds."

Thank you. Very nicely said.

Anonymous said...

POWERFUL HOMILY!

Anonymous said...

I would have been Thomas, because of life's experiences. I can't trust.

Not even God.

Life has taught me such.

I can't trust ... what I so want to. It's fleeting ... and disappears so easily.

michelle said...

Anonymous "#2"- even if you can't trust God, I think (and am learning for myself) that He is with you more than ever. And the fact that you "...so want to" is very hopeful...

anonymous ii said...

When you said "The Church needs to expose its vulnerability
and invite those who doubt and those who have left to touch the Church again as Christ invited Thomas to probe his wound" what did you have in mind? How would the Church do that? All I see right now is a flight to old positions and dogmas...and lots of fear ... that is not exposing its vulnerability ... I'd love to touch the Church again but it keeps making it more difficult all the time.

Fr. Austin Fleming said...

Here's one example, "anonymous ii"

see this story

Michael said...

This is a great homily. But words must be followed with actions. The word "amends" means to change one's behavior.

It's so easy to say, "I will do everything possible..." but do we really mean it?

Pope Benedict said some terrific words during his visit to the US. Yet, he has not removed or punished a single bishop who was complicit in the sexual abuse of our children.

Cardinal O'Malley said he would "do everything possible to protect our children". Yet he still refuses to publish the names and last known location of credibly accused sex offenders on the new RCAB website.

Still, we wait and pray for ACTIONS, not just words. Only through ACTIONS can trust be rebuilt.

"By their actions you shall know them."

Fr. Austin Fleming said...

Michael: While I don't for a moment fail to understand your response, I'd submit that Bishop Zubik's service was indeed an action as well as words.