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When I get a chance to speak to faith groups, and I would count you folks here today as people of faith, I often like to ask two questions:

Faith and Doubt1) Do you believe everything Jesus teaches in the New Testament?
2) Do you have an unwavering and certain faith?

My experience has been that almost 100% of Christians say they believe everything Jesus teaches. The second question, however, often is met with a great deal more hesitation.

The definition of faith varies greatly. The number of hands that go up without hesitation when I ask about faith is less than question 1.

The people who are willing to admit they are unsure are perhaps the honest ones among us.
My work with ex-convicts and those in prison has taught me a lot about doubt. Here are two quotes that demonstrate this:
“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not here.”

“Such deep longing for God and … repulsed empty no faith no love no zeal. … Heaven means nothing pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.”

While these desperate pleas may well have come from a cell deep inside a maximum-security prison, they are actually from the mouth of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Here is a question for today- What role do doubts play in our faith journey?

In our gospel today we have the story an apostle who has become known as “doubting” Thomas.

The followers of Christ are gathered in the Upper Room. Jesus has appeared too many of them, but Thomas was not present on these earlier occasions. With certainty, Thomas begins to mock the other disciple’s story as impossible and makes a challenge that he will soon regret:

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nail marks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later Jesus appears again to the disciples and this time Thomas is present.

“Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

What strikes me about the scene is that there is no anger from Jesus towards his doubting Thomas. Christ approaches the disciple and simply extends his arms to show his wounds. He invites Thomas to believe.

The question of faith and doubt has been debated for centuries, especially as it relates to religion.
Doubt it seems is a natural part of the human condition.

The ultimate doubters in the area of faith are called atheists. Christian theologians have spent thousands of years and millions of pages writing to prove, using reason and faith that God exists.

The atheists, however, have two big questions at their disposal that can result in doubt for even the strongest followers of Christ, like Mother Teresa.

The following two arguments can cause doubt in the minds of many about the existence of a loving God:

• If God is all-powerful and good why does He allow evil to exist in the world?
• If God is all loving- why do bad things happen to good people?

These are good questions.

In Mother Teresa’s case, she was living her faith in a way that was extreme. She and her sisters experienced evil everyday as they tried to help the poor. The closer you are to the modern day lepers the more you will begin to wonder how a loving God could allow this to happen.

Many here today would have experienced situations that are crushing to the spirit. Perhaps it comes from a doctor who says that the “pathology is not good- there is nothing more we can do.”

It might have been a knock on the door and a stranger telling you that a person you loved has been hurt or killed in an accident.
Perhaps, there is an addiction, one that has destroyed your life or has impacted those you love.

Doubt in the existence of God may just come about because we watched the evening news.

What do we do in these times of doubt when our faith seems to have left us?

Faith according to Pope Francis “is not a banana smoothie but a transforming encounter with Christ here and now.”

When faced with doubts about our faith one possible response is to simply “act” as if you believed everything Jesus teaches in the Gospel.

But Deacon Mike you don’t understand- I have lost my faith?

I am not asking you to have faith- I am just asking you to encounter and live the teachings of Jesus. Most of you here today likely answered yes to my first question: Do you believe what Jesus taught in the New Testament?

If you believe in the teacher’s teachings, then take your bible when you go home and go to Matthew Chapter 5, which is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.

Encounter Christ and challenge yourself to believe:

• The Beatitudes- This one passage is enough for a lifetime of study, contemplation and action. One of the teachings tells us; Happy are the righteous for they will be filled.

Regardless of how old you are this beatitude will transform you if it is fully lived. Jesus implies that we know, deep down, what is right living.

For example, this teaching calls for us to be the one who is the friend to the one who has no friends. If you are the bully, you know your behaviour is not right. This encounter with Jesus on the mountain calls on you to change.

• As you read on in Matthew Chapter 5, you will see Jesus wants us to settle matters with those we have disagreements with- quickly. Think of that person or persons right now. When you leave here call them.

• Love your enemies. – just think about that for a moment. How difficult is that to actually do in real life?

The following, according to Pope Francis, is a summary of what Christians believe:

Jesus is the Son of God who came into the world and gave his life to open the floodgates of love to everyone. By coming in oPope Francis Teachingur flesh and sharing our joys and pains, our victories and defeats, and enduring the cross, by living everything in love and fidelity to Abba; Jesus testifies to the incredible love that God has for each person, the inestimable value he sees in everyone.

Each of us, in turn, is called to adopt Jesus’ way of seeing and choosing in love, to enter his way of being, thinking and acting.

Jesus says these words to each of us in our moments of doubt:
“Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Even if we have some doubts about our faith it is possible to trust in Jesus and to go in peace and glorify the Lord by believing and adopting all that he has taught.

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