SPIRITUAL WORK OF MERCY COUNSEL THE DOUBTFUL

We find this work of mercy throughout the New Testament, particularly in Saint Paul’s epistles. Generally speaking, each of Saint Paul’s letters aim at “counseling the doubtful,” for he gives sound wisdom and advice to Christians on the road to Salvation.  See St. Paul Letter to the Romans copied below.

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:2-6)

The Church has never had a problem with doubt, provided it is rightly ordered doubt. The gospel, after all, was forged in a crucible of doubt. John the Baptist doubted both Jesus and himself, asking, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11:3). And it will be noted that Jesus did not, in the slightest, rebuke the honest doubts that had formed to cloud John’s thoughts as he sat in prison awaiting execution

“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.” (Mt 11:4-6) Jesus did not dismiss John the Baptist as a weakling who lacked true faith but to praise him to the crowds:

Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Mt 11:7-11)

The overwhelming majority of us experience doubt from time to time. It may be doubt about God: His existence or goodness. It may be doubt about Jesus Christ. It may be doubt about the Church, or the Bible, or some aspect of Church teaching.  Sometimes doubts can arise from real and reasonable questions. If the Church is guided by the Spirit, why did bishops let the priest scandal happen???

It is emphatically ours to question, long and hard, until we’ve gotten some sort of answer and come to some sort of resolution. “It is,” says Proverbs 25:2, “the glory of God to conceal a matter. It is the glory of kings to search a matter out.” We are to worship God with our minds as well as our hearts.

Doubting may be perverted by excusing ourselves too lightly for not following Jesus, when we prefer the “darkness” to the “light” The problem is not lack of information but we might not like what Jesus and His Church are saying to us; it is a refusal to embrace what is very often obvious. When such a perverted will persists in doubt, it can becomes acute; it can destroy a soul completely.

Spiritual Directors are a great service to the soul, clearing the constant fog that clouds our judgments. God often uses spiritual directors to speak to us and is why they are so important in life’s major decisions. Sadly, as lay people, we often cannot find a priest due to lack of training in such a skill as spiritual direction and the shortage of priests.. Persevere in your prayers to receive the direction and enlightenment you need.

If you are counseling others, be cautious, that is a very tender soul. Don’t try to be a hero if you genuinely can’t help. The Church has a lot of resources to draw on, especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Odds are very good that whatever doubt a person is struggling with has already been chewed over in minute detail by somebody else somewhere in the Church. Learn how to find information starting with the Catechism.

We need to make choices daily and every moment. Choices we make either make us or destroy us. We are not always able to make good choices by ourselves. We need wise guides who are spiritually mature, emotionally stronger and intellectually wiser. They could be our parents, teachers, priests and religious and elders who have gone through life before us.

Pray daily for the direction you need.  Don’t forget about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate!!!

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