03 July 2018

Fashionably Faithless

JMJ
The Readings for the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle
Noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis 
Do not be incredulous, but faithful. 

On the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle the Gospel reading recounts one chain of events in Thomas' life when, in the stress of Holy Week, he doubted the news of the Resurrection. Jesus appeared later and put those doubts to rest. Today's reading, though is only the beginning. Thomas left Jerusalem and traveled as far as India with the Gospel. He was martyred there and his blood watered the vine of the faith. The Churches of Kerala are still there, tracing their lineage all the way back to this Evangelist. I have the honor of knowing a Dominican Novice whose family traces their faith back to these same roots. The faith of the Apostles bearing fruit even in this age of sectarian violence and givings sons to the Church even in this faithless age.

This feast is also a day when it's popular to talk about doubt in a gentle way, perhaps even a good way. Doubts can be a healthy way to deal with life and the crises that arise. Or so they say. Doubts get celebrated as an "adult" approach to confusing religious teachings. This is especially true in areas of sex but other areas come up: the social teachings of the Church, or liturgy, or issues around sacraments like marriage, ordination, etc. Horse hockey or better, Cow Cookies.

It matters not to these "good doubters" that these questions have been settled for 2000 years (or more). These folks want to ask the question over and over and yet don't want the answers. In fact, they are asking - usually - with a not too covert goal of getting the Church to change her teaching on things. Especially in areas of sex. But pull out one thread and suddenly... the whole tapestry is falling down.

Jesus interaction with Thomas gives us a better direction. 

Do not be incredulous, but faithful. The Latin gets to the dual meanings of the Greek text which use the word "pistis" for trust or faith, and "apistis" or without-pistis for the other thing. The positive quality of faith, trust, is the thing itself. The other quality is a lacking of the positive virtue, not a new or different thing. Just as darkness is not a thing, but a lack of light, and just as cold is not a thing, but a lack of heat, doubt is not a thing in itself, it's a lack of something that is otherwise needed.

Rather than a positive, alternative state, doubt is a vacancy waiting to be filled by grace. Be not incredulous, but rather faithful. Literally, do not be without-trust but trusting.

For a Christian, if asked to proclaim our faith, we rise and begin with either the Greek "Pisteo," the Latin "Credo," or the vernacular form "I believe" (etc).  This is the positive action, the "I do this" of the Christian faith. I don't simply assent to a list of Doctrines, but rather I assert them. This is how reality is. In the words of Rich Mullins, "I did not make this, it is making me." We also know that faith without works is dead - even as we know that works done without faith are not to our salvation. 

Thomas came with doubts and gave them up fully. He died for having faith.

This is how it should be with us: we can notice our doubts, we can even talk about them, but we should pray for more faith to fill the gaps. Pray that the holes of doubting will be filled with the whole faith. Faith is a gift from God, so we should be brave and ask for more. And when our gaps have all been minded, we are able to be sent out to  fill our roles in our various apostolates for we are all sent out as preachers of this Gospel. We are all intended to do as St Thomas did.





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