Monday, April 18, 2016

April 17, 2016
The Fourth Sunday of Easter
If you can, try to remember how you felt when you heard the news about each of the following events:

• The massacre of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado by two students in April 1999.
• 2,996 deaths from the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in September 2001.

• The killing of five young girls and the wounding of five others in an Amish school by a lone gunman in Pennsylvania in October 2006.

• The slaying of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech by a deranged student in April 2007.

• July 2015 Chattanooga shootings: 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born American opened fire on a U.S. military recruitment center and a U.S. Navy Reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing 4 U.S. Marines and a sailor, and wounding a Marine and a Chattanooga police officer.

• December 2015 San Bernardino attack: a married couple stormed a county health department's holiday banquet in San Bernardino, California, fatally shooting 14 people and injuring 22 others while leaving a failed pipe bomb at the scene.
• March 2016 Suicide Bombers attack a Metro station and an Airport in Belgium killing 32 people.
• Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, a 27-year-old field artilleryman from Temecula, CA. with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, was killed at about 9 a.m. Saturday when Islamic State group militants launched a rocket attack on a coalition base in Makhmur. Eight other Marines were injured in the attack on the newly established base, which is roughly 60 miles outside of Mosul.

If you’re like most people, you experienced a sense of deep shock and dismay on hearing the news of the first of those events. But unless you were personally connected to a victim of one of the subsequent tragedies, it’s likely that each one had progressively less emotional impact on you. In fact, by the time the last of these was reported, your reaction may have been little more than a sad shake of the head and a weary utterance of, “Not again! When will it end?” And you probably turned your attention away from the news much more quickly than you did after Columbine.

That isn’t surprising. We’ve lived through 9/11. We frequently hear body counts from terrorist activity. By way of television and the Internet or the newspaper for those who still read them, we’ve witnessed such awful stuff that our shock threshold has been raised. Now when we hear of such tragedies as the most recent slaughter of innocents, our reaction is more controlled.

Following the Virginia Tech shootings, columnist Daniel Henninger, writing in the Wall Street Journal, commented on this growing numbness to bad news. He said that “it may be that as a nation we’ve reached tilt with tragedy. ‘Tilt’ is the famous metaphor drawn from the old pinball machines, which shut down if one banged on them too hard. Pinballs could survive plenty of random shocks to the system. But there were limits. Of late, we have been banged on hard.” Later in the same column, he wrote, “Our capacity for shock at genuine violence has been recalibrated.”

I offer none of this as criticism. When tragedies become commonplace, it just isn’t humanly possible for us who are at a distance from them to experience the same level of emotional distress as those who are close at hand. And our lessened reaction has nothing to do with not caring or a lack of empathy. It’s that we have a survival function that causes us to become protective of our emotional energy. We cannot continue to dump it out day after day on extreme events and have any left for daily living.

And so a kind of numbness creeps in, and to some degree, it needs to. It’s a defense mechanism that keeps us from reaching our personal tilt point.

That said, such numbness also gives us a jaded view of life, a pervasive pessimism that whispers to us that the cards really are stacked against us, and that no matter how much we think we’ve organized our lives, the forces of chaos and destruction will ultimately prevail.

We hear some of those whispers after almost every one of these shootings. Some commentator says the incident should reignite the debate about gun control, but those of us who’ve been around awhile find ourselves thinking something such as, “Yeah, Right! This latest tragedy might cause some debate, but even if politicians actually get off their, you know what’s, and some changes are made, it won’t make the kind of difference we need. People who are determined to kill others will always find a way to do so.” But do you hear in that admission deep pessimism — that nothing could have prevented it, or something like it — that neither arming everybody nor disarming everybody would make much difference?

That’s a fatalism we don’t wish to surrender to, but it nibbles at the edge of our minds when we contemplate awful things. Fully developed, it can cause us to doubt God’s existence, or at least his goodness.

In 1983, singer Anne Murray had a hit song called “A Little Good News.” It topped the country chart and even crossed over to the pop chart. The lyrics told of the sort of standard bad news that made up TV news shows and newspaper reports back then: fighting in the Middle East, the bad economy, a robbery, a hostage-taking, damage to the environment, killings and so on. But then the song says,

Just once how I’d like to see the headline say,

“Not much to print today, can’t find nothin’ bad to say,” because

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town

Nobody OD’ed, nobody burned a single buildin’ down

Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain

We sure could use a little good news today.

... How I wanna hear the anchorman talk about a county fair

And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care

... Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today

And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play

And everybody loves everybody in the good old U.S.A.

We sure could use a little good news today

What made the song so popular when it came out was that it voiced a sentiment a lot of people held: that the proliferation of bad news weighs down on us, and we need some relief. The song is a bit dated now because of some of the specific trouble spots it mentions, but clearly, we could simply update the specifics and the song would be as timely now as it was back then. It’s timely because it recognizes the underlying pessimism about this life of ours.

In one of the places online where you can find the song lyrics, there’s a field at the bottom of the page where viewers can add comments. One of those comments posted, acknowledged that the song came out in the ’80s but then added, “It still brings tears to my eyes. What a great sentiment. Wish it could come true.”

Do you hear the pessimism? “Wish it could come true,” which implies, “but it won’t.” Brings tears to my eyes that so many of us have given up hope.

Against all that, there’s the vision that St. John of Patmos had of the eternal age to come, where a multitude of people — so great it cannot be counted — with representatives from every nation, tribe, peoples and language group, stand worshiping before the throne of the Lamb of God. And they cry out good news: “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” When John seeks to know who these people of this multitude are, he is told, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

In the context of John’s time, the “great ordeal” likely referred to the bitter experiences — the bad news — that befell the followers of Jesus at the onset of the Jerusalem war in A.D. 66. But we can read it in our own context and apply it to the bad-news ordeals of our own time. In contrast to the pessimism that first-century ordeal might have engendered, however, this Revelation passage sees the brightness, the good news, beyond it. These people, who have come through that great ordeal faithfully, “will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life .... ”. They are the ones who were numbed by the battering of bad news in their day, but in the realm to come, they are “un-numbed.” In fact, they have no need for defensive numbing, because “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.

But what about us? If this passage is to fit into our existence somewhere, it has to be read as belonging to some future that we cannot see and can only, like St. John, envision. And then we can only hold on to that vision with the most slender of threads, those of promise and hope, and maybe even wish.

We should note, however, that the multitude in Revelation sees this brightness because they are gathered around the throne of God in worship together. Maybe, in that time to come, that throne is the place where they get their questions about life answered. But what John’s vision shows us is that in that place of worship, they jointly perceive what they need to know, that the Lamb is their shepherd

As we live on this side of eternity, what we need to know is that God is still here in this life, that He hasn’t left us, that He is our shepherd, too. And corporate worship, such as here and now in this chapel, can bring us that assurance; it can give us a glimpse of the divine perspective.

It’s significant that we don’t go to church for private devotions. We go there as part of a congregation, as part of a group, and we get some of the uplift we need from fellow worshipers.

Following the Virginia Tech shootings, the university reacted by holding a convocation, by creating a place for people to come together and talk about God. In an essay on about the tragedy, religion correspondent Lauren Green wrote, “So where is God? He is in the prayer vigils. He is in the rivers of tears flowing from everyone affected. He is in the community coming together to offer support to the families. He is at work in the love and strength people are offering each other. God is with us.”

We shouldn’t discount the power of corporate worship to help us when numbing news bombards us. A recent study by a Harvard researcher, in conjunction with a UC San Diego researcher, gives us some evidence in that direction. In 2003, this pair gained access to some old papers found in a storeroom in Framingham, Massachusetts. They were the handwritten records of 5,124 male and female subjects from a heart study done in that community in 1948, looking for risk factors for heart trouble. It wasn’t so much the heart information that caught the attention of the latter-day researchers, but rather some clerical information on the forms. The original Framingham researchers had noted each participant’s close friends, colleagues and family members simply so that if the participant moved away, the researchers could contact the friends to locate the participant.

Looking at that information, the 2003 researchers realized it could be transformed into a detailed map of the human relationships of those folks. Two-thirds of the adults in Framingham had been included in the first phase of the study, and their children and grandchildren had participated in subsequent phases. Thus, almost the entire social network of the community was chronicled in these old records. It took nearly five years to input all that data into a computer format, but once that was done; the current researchers were able to construct detailed diagrams of the social networks of the Framingham residents. As they began tracking those people as an interconnected network rather than as a mass of individuals, they discovered that the social networks influenced the behavior of the people involved, even as the participants spread out over a larger geographic area.

Because the study had kept track of the subjects’ weight, the current researchers first analyzed obesity trends. They found that in 1948, fewer than 10 percent of the residents were obese. By 1985, 18 percent were, and today, 40 percent are. That equates with national trends, but looking at it from the social-network angle, the researchers realized that while the whole group discovered fast food at the same time, the social-network effect was what caused obesity to begin to spread, almost like a virus. In other words, when your friends change their eating habits, it’s likely that you will, too.

They found a similar trajectory with smoking. In the early ’70s, 65 percent of Framingham residents between the ages of 40 and 49 smoked regularly. But by 2001, only 22 percent did. The researchers found that friends and family had a positive influence, and that people quit together.

Both eating habits and smoking are behaviors, but the researchers went further and found that such things as happiness are also influenced by our social networks. Because the original study asked people to describe their moods, the latter research showed that essentially, happy people have happy friends and unhappy people have unhappy friends. In other words, gloom is contagious, but so is joy.

It doesn’t take much thought to apply that same dynamic to people who worship together. One thing that helps us maintain hope when soul-numbing bad news is all around us is that we’re coming before God in company with others who share that hope.

So it’s no wonder that in the eternal age to come, those gathered around God’s throne aren’t described one by one but as an uncountable multitude. They grew to be so many because they were already following Jesus in company with each other when they were on this side of eternity.

There have been enough awful tragedies caused by somebody with a grudge, or paranoia or evil in his heart, or a desire to get even or whatever, that we assume similar things will continue to happen from time to time in some place in our society. Evil is real, sin rages in people’s hearts, madness descends, despair begets chaos.

Further, there’s no guarantee that we or our loved ones might not someday be among the victims.

But standing here among the people of God, in the place of worship, we can sense the truth: that good is stronger than evil, that there is something — something — that cannot be taken from us because God has given it to us. And furthermore, we together know that nothing — nothing — can separate us from the love of God.

It’s that knowledge that helps us not tilt when bad things happen.
Let us pray.
O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech You for all sorts and conditions of mankind; that You would be pleased to make Your ways known to them, Your saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for Your holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by the Holy Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
Finally, we commend to Your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [especially N.]; that it may please You to comfort and relieve them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. We all this, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April 10, 2016

Third Sunday in Easter

Fifty three years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." It became an important document in the history of the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, and remains a relevant discussion of the duty of every citizen to resist unjust laws, for an "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." This then leads us to the biblical text where we wind up, not in a Birmingham jail, but a Jerusalem jail. Peter has something to say, as did MLK, about where and when it is okay to disobey man's laws.
What were you doing in April 1963? It's been a while -- 53 years.
If you are a senior citizen, you might have watched the debut of the long-running soap opera General Hospital. If you are a baby boomer, you might have purchased the first album put out by the Beatles, Please Please Me. If you are a member of Generations X, Y or Z, you probably weren't even born yet.
But if you were a leader of the clergy in Alabama, you would have received a strongly-worded letter from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On April 16, 1963, King issued his Letter from Birmingham Jail.
The civil rights leader was locked up in the city jail after being arrested for his part in the Birmingham campaign, a nonviolent protest conducted by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. King was president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and had been invited by the Alabama Christian Movement to take part in the protest.
King wrote his letter on the margins of a newspaper, which was the only paper he could find. Bits and pieces of the letter were carried by his lawyers back to the headquarters of the movement.
So why did King write the letter?
Eight white Alabama clergymen -- four bishops, three pastors and one rabbi -- had written a statement calling King's efforts "unwise and untimely." They agreed that racial segregation was a problem, but that it should be handled in the courts instead of in the streets. These religious leaders rebuked King for being an outsider causing trouble in Birmingham.
King responded by saying that he was not an outsider because he had ties to the Alabama Christian Movement. But more importantly, "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here." All communities and states are interrelated, he asserted, and "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ... Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." Therefore, "anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider."
Alabama clergy leaders were upset because demonstrations were happening in Birmingham. King acknowledged that the demonstrations were unfortunate, but said, "it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative."
The church leaders also questioned the timing of the protests. They wanted King to wait and see if a new city administration would improve conditions for blacks. But King responded that for blacks in the United States, the word "wait" had almost always meant "never." They had already been waiting 340 years for their "constitutional and God-given rights."
Three hundred forty years. That's too long to wait. King was sick and tired of waiting for human authorities to act.
It was time to obey God.
Not that King was the first to practice civil disobedience. He spoke of the Old Testament's Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refusing to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar ..., Socrates practicing civil disobedience in ancient Greece ..., American patriots participating in the Boston Tea Party ..., and, of course, early Christians facing persecution for their faith.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., they knew that they must obey God; not human authority.
The story of Peter and the apostles could easily be labeled "Letter From a Jerusalem Jail." They had been arrested for performing numerous healings and for telling the story of Jesus. Their time in jail did not last long, however, because an angel opened the prison doors and brought them out to continue their teaching.
On the day of the apostles' trial, the temple police arrested them again, and they were brought to stand before the Jewish council. The high priest questioned them, saying, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in [the name of Jesus], yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us.”
In other words, the efforts of the apostles were "unwise and untimely."
But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The apostles decided to obey God, rather than humans. A bold stand for them to take. But how did they know that they were hearing the voice of God?
This was a problem for Martin Luther King Jr. as well. After all, the clergy of Birmingham believed that they were obeying God, just like the high priest and council of Jerusalem. And they also had the authority of human beings on their side.
King addresses this question head-on. In his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," he says that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. "I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws," says King. "One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.'"
But how do you know the difference between the two? That's the tough part. "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God," explains King. "An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."
A just law, according to King is: "Any law that uplifts human personality."
An unjust law is: "Any law that degrades human personality."
Based on this reasoning, he concludes that "all segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority."
King quotes the theologian Paul Tillich in saying that sin is separation, and then makes the point that segregation is an "expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness."
If segregation is sin, then King can justifiably urge his followers to "disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong." Segregation ordinances can be disobeyed because they are unjust laws, codes that are out of harmony with the moral law.
Unjust laws are no laws at all.
Let's apply this same reasoning to the Acts of the Apostles. If just laws uplift human personality, then we want to be on the side of any uplifting action. Peter and the apostles point out that the "God of our ancestors raised up Jesus." That’s uplifting!
"God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior." That’s uplifting!
"That he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." That’s uplifting!!
"And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit." That’s uplifting!
Peter and the apostles believe that all who obey God are obeying his just and uplifting laws.
On the other hand, the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem killed Jesus "by hanging him on a tree." That's an act that degrades human personality, making it an unjust law.
Just laws uplift and unjust laws degrade. What was true in Jerusalem was also true in Birmingham in 1963.
Christians today are certainly going to have different ideas about where to draw the line between just and unjust laws. We're going to make different choices about when and where to practice civil disobedience. We may not all agree with each other, but we do need to support each other in our attempts to follow the guidance of God.
Some will march in pro-life rallies, based on their belief that an unborn child has a right to life. A fight, that one would think the Supreme court has decided and solved is still going on as some will take a stand for marriage equality, based on their conviction that gays as well as straights have a right to marry. Some will join demonstrations for immigration reform because they are convinced that our current system is unfair and degrading. Some will join a movement to end child sex slavery and human trafficking. Some will still take stands when racial inequality, once only left to African Americans (and seemingly still going on here in our own country), that now encompasses all immigrants and inhabitants of the world!
In each of these cases, the challenge is to obey God and fight for laws that uplift human beings. The apostles did this, civil rights leaders did this, and we are called to do this today. We won't always be popular for these stands, and we certainly won't enjoy quick and easy success. We may even encounter resistance, persecution and arrest.
Preaching in Jerusalem led to the jailing of Peter, the death of Stephen, and finally a persecution that scattered most of the Jerusalem church. Later in Acts, Paul and Barnabas tell the ordinary disciples, "It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Persecution may come. It took the lives of Paul and Martin Luther King Jr., and it may threaten us as well. But obeying God is worth the sacrifice, especially if our actions raise people up and lift us a little closer to the kingdom of God.
Let us pray.
Father God, there has never been a time when there has not been some point in which God’s people have not had to stand up for what is right. Still today we live in a world with much strife and mistreatment of one another.
Help us, Lord to see the error in the way we treat one another, whether it be because of race or gender; religion or sexual orientation; age or social status; whatever it may be, and there are many, help us to imitate Jesus. He would speak and dine with anyone and everyone. He spoke of the need to be more like the Samaritan, and not like the Priest or Levite when we pass others on the road of life.
Give us the drive to be willing to stand up against that which is wrong, whether it be laws or actions. No change comes from sitting quietly locked away in our own bubbles; change comes from our willingness to speak out. Let us send our letters from whatever prison of life we may be in and be a voice for change. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April 3, 2016
Low Sunday
(Second Sunday of Easter)
Dominique Saponari, now 9, has a certificate in her bedroom that proclaims that the child has sent her binky to Binky Land.

It was a long time coming. When she was 5, Dominique had to visit the orthodontist who announced that she had a serious malocclusion overbite caused by sucking on a pacifier which molded her teeth around the binky and pushed the teeth forward and upward.

Her mother came up with a book idea that her brother followed up on. The 10-page book, The Story of Binky Land, written by William Post, chronicles the adventures of Binky Bonnie and Binky Bob and offers parents cool ways to nudge their child to a binky-free life.

Not all dentists are binky Nazis. They argue that the comfort and emotional security gained far outweigh the potential dental problems. 

But there are other problems with pacifiers. They can get lost and cause an emotional disturbance — or tantrum — until they’re found. 

They can be unsafe if the parts are not attached properly. Some binkies can be choking hazards.

They can get dirty and should be cleaned regularly. Especially if your drooly St. Bernard get hold of one! 

All of which makes us wonder about the pacifiers we adults are sucking on in our spiritual lives — that is, those things that make us feel pacific, peaceful, calm, safe and comforted. The stuff we cling to for security, especially when our faith is under duress.

The gospel of John says following Jesus’ death, the disciples were huddled together behind locked doors, rigid with fear that the powers who crucified Jesus would put an end to them, too. For some reason, Thomas was not with them. Maybe they drew straws to see who would go to the market and Thomas got the short straw. Maybe he got tired of being cooped up with 10 fearful men in a small house, waiting for a clue of what to do next. Whatever the reason, Thomas was absent. Poor timing. Like the guy stargazing who bends to tie his shoe at the very moment a meteor blazes across the sky.

Thomas returns and is immediately confronted by his companions, who declare they have seen the Lord. Who among us would not respond like Thomas, “Sure, you saw the Lord. Riiiiight, and what else happened while I was at the market? Have you guys been drinking too much of that wine Jesus whipped up?” 

“No, no, you don’t understand,” they cried, “our Lord, Jesus, revealed himself to us. He is risen!” Thomas offered a deal, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Without this kind of evidence, Thomas was an unbeliever. 

Have you ever had the experience of being on the outside looking in? When the whole group, except you, knows something you probably ought to know? It happens to kids all the time. Caught in the position of not knowing what you think you need to know, you have two options: pretend that you know — fake it — with the hope that you catch on real soon; the other option, a bit more risky, is to call time out, stop the motion long enough for you to ask questions, challenge the process or do what you need to do to get on board. Of course, another option is simply to give up and go home, choosing to remain on the outside. 

The gospel describes how one disciple responded to being on the outside looking in. Thomas was confronted with an empty tomb and the claims of a risen Lord Jesus, as we are every Sunday. His initial response earned him the name “Doubting Thomas.” His response may not be all that different from our response.

For the apostle Thomas, the scientific rationalist, the binky was empirical evidence. 

Many of us are fascinated by scientific research that would seem to authenticate the claims of Scripture. Why else spend the millions of dollars that have been spent to search for Noah’s ark on Mt. Ararat in present-day Turkey? Granted, there is a valid archaeological interest here, but would the discovery of the ark really make our faith any stronger than it is right now? And if so, what does that say about our faith?

Years ago, many people were disappointed when carbon dating seemed to prove that the Shroud of Turin, thought to be the cloth that Jesus’ body was draped in after he was crucified, was only 800-some years old, not 2,000. Now, they are not sure the carbon dating was accurate, so we are back to where we started. Is it; or is it not?

More recently, the reputed ossuary of James the brother of Jesus caused a similar debate. Some argue that this is indisputable evidence of Jesus’ family. Other scholars are now saying, however, that the box is a fake. 

From an archaeological standpoint, it matters. But does it matter from a faith perspective? Is our faith stronger or weaker when such things happen? 

Some stumble in their life of faith, as did Thomas, because the empirical evidence is lacking. There is no proof for the existence of God, and there’s a lot that happens in the world that would seem to argue against a loving and powerful God. Thomas said he would remain an unbeliever. What do we say?

Others grab the pacifier of cultural respectability. Any faith journey that calls for a life of radical discipleship, a life that pits us against the world, that risks the ridicule of the chattering classes is not a life for us. We want our faith to be neat, clean, tidy, respectable and non-confrontational. 

Some of us move on steadily in a life of faith, while for others faith is a lifelong struggle with doubt. Your neighbors may speak of an access to faith that seems unassailable, but you find yourself unconvinced, skeptical, saying the words but doubting their truth. Your academic training, professional expertise and life experience conspire to demand something solid to counter the doubt that refuses to go away. 

The fact is, if you care enough to wonder, to question, to struggle for an authentic profession of faith, you may well be on the path to a life grounded in honest reliance upon God alone. Because for many, doubt may be the necessary step on the road to faith. Take Dorothy Day, for example.

Dorothy Day, the late founder of the Catholic Worker, described her inability to pray as she was coming to faith. Whenever she knelt, she would be overcome by doubt and shame — “Do I really believe? Whom am I praying to?” “Is prayer for the lonely and religion for the weak?” 

But once while walking to the village to get her mail, she found herself praying again, this time out of a deep sense of thankfulness. Encouraged, she continued on, against her doubts. No matter how dull the day, how long the walk seemed or how sluggish she felt at the beginning, the words of thanksgiving that she prayed began slowly to move into her heart and shape her conscience in faith. She came to faith through doubt and eventually gave up her doubts as freely as a child drops her pacifier.

While we can condemn Thomas for much, we can applaud him for his intellectual integrity. He was honest, refusing to pretend to believe something that he really didn’t. He knew the claims being made about Jesus fantastical and were of ultimate significance, and he cared enough to articulate his doubt, to challenge his friends. 

This is a man who spent three years of his life as a disciple of Jesus. He was the one who dared to ask questions when he didn’t understand. Hounded by doubt, he nevertheless stayed the course. Tradition has it that he was the first missionary to India. 

Where did his search lead him? Where will ours lead us? His willingness to follow his question led him to faith, true and abiding faith that was formed in the depths of doubt. In other words, when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus, Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” 

But Jesus’ implication is that he missed out on a greater blessing. The blessing is greater when we can come to faith when all the contrary signs suggest that such a faith is foolish. 

In an age which demands solid evidence for everything, Thomas is certainly our brother. Authentic faith — binky-free living — is often born from a dance with doubt. This faith is a faith that rests finally on what cannot be seen but only believed. Sooner or later, we must drop the things that we rely on for security, but actually keep us from relying on God. 

Here is the word of the Lord addressed to us in a postmodern, post-Christian age of technology: Blessed are they who do not see — but believe.
Let us pray.
Father God, many of us are “Doubting Thomas”. We struggle thru it all, merely, like Thomas, we want some proof to believe. We’ve had our heart torn apart and we don’t want to take a chance again.
However, dear Lord, like with St. Thomas, You call us to look at the facts and to open up our hearts to believe. We struggle many days wondering if You are there, but we too have Dorthy Day experiences, where we have not seen, but we believe. All the saintly mystics of the past, all struggle with a dark night of the soul, but still continued on and thus received their reward.
Help our moments of unbelief and doubts. Help us to see You in all the glories of the earth and in each person we meet, so that we, like Thomas, can exclaim, “My Lord and MY God!” Amen.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.