Doubting Disciples

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May 27, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

May 27, 2018
Matthew 28:16-20
Fr. George Smiga

Today’s gospel is the last passage in the gospel of Matthew. It is the only time in Matthew that the apostles see the risen Christ. It is a beautiful story. Jesus appears to them, and they worship him. But there is one sour note in this passage. It tells us that the apostles not only worshipped Jesus, they also doubted.

Now why are the apostles doubting? What are the apostles doubting? It is not likely that they are doubting Jesus’ resurrection because they can see the risen Lord with their own eyes. It is more likely that they are doubting what Jesus does next. What the risen Jesus does next is send the apostles to proclaim the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth. He sends them to show others by their words and by their deeds the reality of God’s love. The apostles have reason to doubt the success of that mission, because they know they are weak. There are only eleven of them because one of the twelve, Judas, betrayed the Lord. Peter stands among the eleven but he is very conscious that he denied Jesus three times. All the disciples remember how out of fear they abandoned Jesus and fled during his suffering. No wonder the disciples doubt Jesus’ choice to entrust the kingdom to them.

Like the disciples we too can doubt Jesus’ choice to entrust the kingdom to us. For, like the eleven, Jesus sends us out into the world to proclaim the goodness of God’s love. Some of us can remember times when we were angry with God, and for a while let go of our faith. Some of us can think of times when we saw someone being belittled or harassed because of his or her race, religion or background, and we did nothing—perhaps even joined in. All of us know that God has given us gifts. Yet we can think of times when we had the opportunity to use the gifts to support someone who was struggling or in need, and we chose our own comfort and security instead. Like the disciples we have reason to doubt. We wonder, “Can I be a good example to my children, and pass on my faith to them? Do I have the courage to be a witness in the workplace, showing others what I believe by my fairness and integrity? Will I have the strength to witness to others in my community that I believe that God is real and that I serve God by serving others?”

The doubts we have about Jesus’ choice of us are real. This is why Jesus ends the gospel of Matthew with a promise. “Behold, I am with you always.” Jesus does not tell us that our doubt is unfounded. Jesus does not dismiss our weakness as an illusion. Jesus does not promise that we will never fail. What he promises is that he will be with us always—with us in our doubt, with us in our flaws, with us in our weakness. Christ’s presence can compensate for our flaws. Christ’s strength can overcome our weakness. If Christ is with us, then even with our doubts we can go forth and proclaim God’s love to our world.

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