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Oct 27, 2020

Lord Help My Unbelief: Doubts or Difficulties?

Dr. Edward Sri

Do you find yourself struggling with certain Catholic moral teachings or doctrines sometimes? Today, Dr. Sri explains the difference between doubting and turning to God with our difficulties accepting everything the Catholic Church teaches. Using examples from the Gospel, he offers us practical tips to help us entrust our questions to God with great faith.

Snippet from the Show

“Doubt is trusting our own intellect more than the revelation of God.” 


Shownotes

There is a big difference between doubting and having questions or difficulties understanding the Catholic Church’s teachings. It is good to ask questions because it shows interest in the faith and God wants us to apply our mind to understand the mystery of faith. While we will never be able to fully grasp everything God has revealed to us, God gave us an intellect to seek the truth and it is good to use it. For example, St. John Henry Newman, a famous convert to Catholicism continued to ask questions and pursue a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith after his conversion from Anglicanism. However, that didn’t mean he doubted God or his faith.

“Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.”

John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua

John the Baptist

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”

-Matthew 11:2-6

After John the Baptist  is arrested by King Herod and imprisoned, he sends the disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah. He too had questions and struggled to understand his circumstances. 

Mary vs. Zechariah

 And Zechari′ah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

Luke 1:18-20

And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?”

Luke 1:34

The difference between Mary’s question and Zechariah’s question has to do with the nature of their questions. Zechariah’s question is a question of doubt, he rationalizes and fails to see that God has granted barren women the miracle of conceiving before. Mary’s question on the other hand, is a question of clarification but not of doubt of God’s power.  

Peter vs. Judas

Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?  It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.  And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.

John 6: 60-71

After Jesus miraculously multiplies the loaves, he teaches about the Eucharist and finds an incredible amount of unbelief among the crowds and disciples. Many of his followers left him because of his difficult teaching. While Simon Peter is confused, he approaches Jesus with a fundamental disposition of trust. This is different from the doubt and suspicion Jesus perceives in Judas. Judas was most likely angry, confused, and unbelieving because he saw Jesus losing momentum after his teaching on the Eucharist. Judas expected Jesus to be a great king who would defeat the Romans with earthly power and influence. He inserts Jesus into his own plans, agenda and framework and eventually betrays him because of his pride. Oftentimes our pride leads us to doubt and rebel against God. 

Practicals

  1. Begin with humility and trust. 
  2. Bring your questions honestly to God in prayer and ask him to increase your trust. 
  3. Seek understanding. Fill your mind with the truth about Church teaching.  Read the catechism, Scripture, official church encyclicals and papal writings, don’t be formed by the secular media. 

Resources


Meet Your Host: Dr. Edward Sri

Dr. Sri is a theologian and the author of several best-selling books. He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. A founding leader of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), Dr. Sri currently serves as its vice president of formation. He appears regularly on EWTN and resides in Colorado with his wife, Elizabeth, and their eight children.

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