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The doubt trap

The theme of our Sunday liturgies in the Easter period has been centred around doubt. We have listened to the story of the Doubting Thomas and heard Jesus saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.”

Today, we have yet another story about doubt from the Acts of the Apostles, where the disciples would not believe that St. Paul had changed his stripes and become a believer, until they saw and heard him in action.

Doubt is a big part of all our stories. Last week we heard how the early Christian communities shared their property in common, those with houses had sold up and those with other assets put them all in the common pot.

At first this seems unreal to us, yet the story tells us that everyone had enough. The people were not seeking to live in poverty, in fact just the opposite. They just wanted to ensure that everyone had enough for a decent life. We too are asked to believe that there are sufficient resources for everyone in the world so that everyone may live a decent life. We express our belief through our donations to charities like Caritas, the St. Vincent de Paul Society
and other benevolent organisations, yet we know that this is not enough.

The Millennium Goals of the United Nations that aim to rid the world of poverty are only partially successful, mostly because nations have reneged on their undertakings, in all probability because they do not believe it is a possibility.

Yet unseen possibilities do sometimes come true. The Berlin Wall came down because people believed, a peace accord was struck in Northern Ireland because people believed, and other seemingly impossible things came true
because strong belief made them happen.

While none of these things have brought perfect results they are significant progress and even many Doubting Thomases have been converted.

Our faith in God is a gentle call to us to believe that somehow love is stronger than hate, and the power of goodness will ultimately triumph over the powers of darkness and despair.

In the gospel reading today, Jesus is compared with a grapevine, and God the Father, the vine grower. The Father prunes the vine, cutting away the non-productive growth and the branches that cannot bear grapes. Every wine producer knows the importance of keeping their vines in good shape, so as to prevent waste and also disease in their crops. A well pruned vine is stripped of anything that may spoil the vintage.

Coaches tell their teams to play with belief, as they know the consequence of doubt in terms of the final score. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Your kingdom come,” yet our own doubts about that kingdom can become one of its greatest enemies.

The promise of today’s gospel reading is, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

But the condition is that first stand before the seccateurs of the Father, who will prune away what will not bear fruit. And our doubts will be cut away as well.