Fr. Manuel João, comboni missionary
from the womb of my whale, ALS
Our cross is the pulpit of the Word
Thomas and his mysterious Twin
Year A – Easter – 2nd Sunday
Gospel: John 20:19-31
The Easter of Thomas
Today, the second Sunday of Easter, is the Easter of Saint Thomas! The themes that the Gospel presents to us are many: Sunday (the first day of the week), the Peace of the Risen Lord and the joy of the apostles, the Mission of the apostles (according to John’s Gospel), the Johannine Pentecost, the gift and the task entrusted to the apostles to forgive sins (that’s why, for some years now, we have celebrated the Sunday “of The Divine Mercy”), the theme of community (from which Thomas had absented himself!), but above all of faith. I will focus just on the figure of Thomas.
Thomas, our twin
His name, Thomas, means ‘double’ or ‘twin’ (from the Hebrew root Ta’am, Greek Didymus). Thomas holds a prominent place among the apostles, perhaps for this reason the Acts and Gospel of Thomas, apocryphal from the 4th century (“important for the study of Christian origins”, Benedict XVI, 27.9.2006), were attributed to him.
We would like to know whose twin Thomas is. He could be Nathanael’s (Bartholomew). Indeed, Thomas’ profession of faith at the end of John’s Gospel corresponds with the first, made by Nathanael, at the beginning of his gospel (1:45-51). Moreover, their character and behaviour are strikingly similar. Finally, the two names appear relatively close in the list of the Twelve (Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:13; and also John 21:2).
This unknown gives room to affirm that Thomas is “a twin of each of us” (Don Tonino Bello). Thomas comforts us in our doubts as believers. In him we mirror ourselves and, through his eyes and hands, we too “see” and “touch” the body of the Risen One. An interpretation that has its charm!…
Thomas a “double”?
In the Bible, the most famous pair of twins is that of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25: 24-28), eternal antagonists, an expression of the dichotomy and polarity of the human condition. Could it be that Thomas (the ‘double’!) carries within himself the antagonism of this duality? Capable, at times, of gestures of great generosity and courage, while at other times he is incredulous and stubborn. But when confronted with the Master, his profound identity as a believer who proclaims his faith with readiness and conviction again emerges.
Thomas carries his ‘twin’ inside. The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas emphasises this duplicity: “Before you were one but you became two” (No. 11). “Jesus said: ‘When of two you become one, then you will become the sons of Adam'” (n°105). Thomas is the image of us all. We too carry within us such a ‘twin’, inflexible and staunch defender of his own ideas, obstinate and capricious in his attitudes.
These two realities or ‘creatures’ (the old and the new Adam) coexist badly, in contrast, sometimes in open warfare, in our hearts. Who has not experienced the suffering of this inner laceration?
Now, Thomas has the courage to face this reality. He allows his dark, adverse and “unbelieving” side to manifest itself, and brings it to confront Jesus. He accepts the challenge thrown down by his ‘rebellious’ interiority that demands to see and touch… He takes it to Jesus. And, faced with the evidence, the “miracle” happens: the two ‘Thomases’ become one and proclaim the same faith: “My Lord and my God!”
Unfortunately, this is not what happens with us. Our Christian communities are attended almost exclusively by ‘good twins’ and submissive, but also … passive and amorphous! Those bodies lack vitality! The fact is that they are not there in all their ‘wholeness’. The energetic, instinctive part, the part that would need to be evangelised, does not appear at the ‘meeting’.
Jesus said that he was coming for sinners, but our churches are attended by the ‘righteous’ who … do not feel the need to convert! The one who should convert, the other twin, the “sinner”, we leave quietly at home. It is Sunday, he takes the opportunity to “rest” and entrust the day to the “good twin”. On Monday, then, the twin of instincts and passions will be in full form to take over again.
Jesus in search of Thomas
Would that Jesus had many Thomas! In the Sunday celebration, it is above all of them that the Lord comes in search of… They will be his “twins”! God seeks ‘real’ men and women, who relate to him as they are: sinners who ‘suffer’ in their own flesh the tyranny of instincts. Believers who are not ashamed to appear with this unbelieving, grace-resistant side. Who do not come to make a good impression in the “assembly of believers” but to meet with the Divine Physician of the Divine Mercy and be healed. It is of these that Jesus becomes a brother!
The world needs the testimony of honest believers, capable of recognising their errors, doubts and difficulties, who do not hide their “duplicity” behind a façade of pharisaic “respectability”.
The mission also needs disciples who are authentic and not “stiff-necked”! Of missionaries who look straight at the reality of suffering and touch with their hands the wounds of the crucified of today!…
Thomas invites us to reconcile our duplicity to make Easter!
Word of Jesus, according to the … Gospel of Thomas (No. 22.27): “When you make two to be one, and you make the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, and the top like the bottom, and when you make male and female one (…) then you will enter the Kingdom!”
Fr. Manuel João, comboni missionary
Castel d’Azzano (Verona) 13th April 2023