We celebrate the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle. The Gospel tells us of that episode where Thomas demanded to see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in the side, I will not believe. The next week, Jesus appears to the Twelve and Thomas was with them. Jesus tells Thomas to put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe. John tells us: Thomas answered him, “My Lord and My God”. Thomas did not have to put his finger in the wounds of Jesus, he just believed. And in his faith, he expressed Jesus is Lord and God! The Church has been proclaiming this since the time of the Apostles, that Jesus is Lord and God.
This is why the First Reading tells us the household of God is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Acts 2:42 tells us the Apostolic Church persevered in the Teaching of the Apostles, the Fellowship, the Breaking of the Bread and the prayers. They knew the Apostles are the source of right Teaching of the faith. Note, the word teaching is singular, meaning all the doctrines form one Teaching. We cannot pick and choose what we like and do not like. If the Apostles and the Prophets form the foundation of the household of God, we cannot take anything out of the foundation, otherwise, the integrity of the building suffers.
The Apostles handed this Teaching to their successors just as Jesus handed his Teaching to the Apostles. Christ willed be a visible universal Church with leaders who can confirm or refute the Truth or error. We see this in Acts 15 when the issue of circumcision was presented to the Apostles and the presbyters. This was the first council of the Church where the Apostles, with the presbyters, discern the will of God. How did they discern what God wants? Peter narrated his experience which convinced the group to do away with circumcision.
The Church has been doing this through centuries, to decide on what is True or not. The early Church was faced with issues about the Person of Jesus. The Church called councils to discern the Truth about these issues. There was a point where most of the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles, believed Jesus was not fully God. The Truth was discerned when they went back to what those who learned from the Apostles and their successors taught. They also used what at that point were recognized writings of Apostles or people who had direct relationship with the Apostles. By the fourth century, there was an accepted list of writings used within the Catholic Church. This list became the New Testament.
When we look at our generation today, we see several issues on life and morality. And sad to say, many Bishops are not clear on what the Church teaches. So what can I do if I am confused with what the Church really teach in these matters?
Like the early Christians, we go back to what the Church has consistently taught through the Apostles, to their immediate successors and through their successors. This consistent teaching is called Sacred Tradition. The Church does not define what is true. She articulates and explains what is true in faith and morals. The Church cannot change the truth because Jesus is the Truth. The Church is a servant of the Truth and not the Master. People who demand the Church to change her teaching do not understand this concept of Truth. How could they? When they do not believe in objective truth.
What should I do if I doubt what the Church teaches or if I do not agree with it? We ask questions and more importantly, seek the answers. Yes, the Church accepts questions and answers them as long as one is sincere in knowing the answer. If I ask questions just to prove I am right, then I am fooling myself because only God has the answer to all the questions and I am not God. Jesus told Thomas, do not doubt but believe. Jesus did not tell Thomas “do not doubt but understand”. While faith needs to be reasonable, there are things we will never understand, because faith is based on a Person. If I trust Jesus, I know his Word is true and even if I do not understand, I will believe him.
Lord, there are things that I do not understand. Yet, because you say so, I will believe. There are many things that confuse me, and I need your wisdom to help me discern the Truth. I know you will give me wisdom you promised to give wisdom to those who ask. Reveal the Truth to me. Help me understand that faith is not in understanding how, but it is in knowing you, the Truth who will set me free.