Doubt Can Be a Good Thing

This is one of my favorite scripture passages. Thomas, the one that is often called the notorious one because he did not believe in the death and rising of Jesus because he had not seen him. His nickname, Doubting Thomas, is still called out to people who do not believe in the obvious truth. I would like to change that nickname to “Glorious Thomas” because he had the courage to ask the question that others were just thinking. It was Thomas who wanted to put his finger into the hand and side of Jesus to find out the truth. It took immense courage and desire to be willing to ask the unimaginable question that others in the room may have been thinking but did not have the courage to ask.

Thomas became one of favorite saints when I was attending St. Francis Seminary to obtain my Masters of Divinity degree. At that time women had just been accepted into the seminary to go to school. The priest instructor was teaching about Baptism and was explaining that Baptism was the essential sacrament that would allow all other sacraments to flow. I remember that he emphasized the value of Baptism for most of the class. Suddenly I had a very strong desire to ask the priest, the instructor, a question. I asked him if there was a different Baptism for girls than for boys. I mentioned to him that girls were not allowed to receive the seventh sacrament which was Holy Orders. This meant that I was expressing doubt that this traditional one sacrament of Baptism was in error because only men could receive Holy Orders and not women. There truly must be another Sacrament of Baptism just for women. My question was spontaneous and I asked it in a clear and gentle way. You could tell that the priest instructor had never been asked this question before. He talked on and that quickly moved to another subject. He failed to address the subject of sexism in the church.

After class the instructor asked me to come to his office. He informed me that from that day on I could not ask any more questions in class. I had to write my questions down ahead of time and submit them to him before class. Male students asked anything they wanted in class for the rest of the semester. I did not ask any more questions in class. Just remembering this story upsets me again just as it did then. I became the Kathy, the doubter, to the rest of the seminary faculty member and students.
From that experience of asking questions, doubting some church teachings I began to give voice to other questions. I believe this is what all of us should do. Thomas is a great man because he asked questions that were very hard and embarrassing. If you and I want to know what God wants us to do in our lives, we must continually ask God the direction we are to take. If we want to find out what goodness is and how we are supposed to act, we must ask questions of God to find out the truth and what direction we are to go. Questions are good. Overcoming our fear of asking these questions takes courage that summons us to be the kind of person God wants us to be.

I also believe that the disciples learned that they could ask God directly about any question they needed to without being ashamed. Honestly and courage are the standard bearers of our Christian faith. If we ask in humility and faith, God does answer us. Sometimes the problem becomes that we do not want to do what God asks. Keep asking. God will show you the steps to take to do what is right. Thomas must have been very frightened to ask the Resurrected Jesus the questions he asked. But somehow he found the strength to blurt out the questions he needed to. His courage to ask the questions of others around him made Thomas a Glorious Thomas --- a model for us and others that might live in fear of ridicule.

I believe the Church was changed because of Thomas’ candor. The disciples could go forth and know for certain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was the Savior of the world. Much doubt became erased because of that evening of dialog between Jesus and the disciples. We have been blessed because much was revealed and much continues to be revealed.

God bless the doubters among us who ask the questions that need to be asked.

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