I have always wondered why Thomas is called “The Twin” in the Gospels. The version that we read today kept the word in Greek, “Didymus,” which means Twin, probably because they were also at a loss whether or not the author meant it literally. I am inclined to think that he meant it metaphorically or figuratively.
It’s possible that Thomas was nicknamed Twin because he had the tendency to behave like that Gollum character in The Lord of the Rings who had two personalities, and who shifted constantly from one to the other.
Hmm, on second thought, maybe that’s a bit too much. He could also have been called Twin, not in the sense of having a split personality but rather in the sense of being indecisive or non-committal about a lot of things.
In English we call it “double-mindedness.” Sa Tagalog, mga taong mahilig magdalawang-loob tungkol sa mga bagay na dapat desisyunan (pagpasiyahan).
I checked out the English word DOUBT and I found out that that it is related to the word “DOUBLE.” In fact in the German language you have the word TWO as the root word for DOUBT: “zweifel.” Two in German is ZWEI.
When Thomas sets his condition for believing, he’s not actually expressing his doubt about Jesus himself, but about his companions. John tells us Thomas was “not with them” when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room. He does not explain why or where he had gone. “Not with them” could mean he was “not in good terms with them.” Maybe that is the reason why Jesus had to give him that lesson about having his wounds touched. This man is behaving like someone who is wounded and is traumatized by the experience.
Once I saw on YouTube a funny video of a team-building session in which the facilitator introduced an activity to the team with the objective of building mutual trust among the team members. He called the activity a FREEFALL EXERCISE.
The facilitator asked one volunteer to step on a stool, stand up straight and close his eyes. He quietly gathered the other participants behind the volunteer. Then he said, “I want you to entrust yourself to your friends; they are there for you. They will make sure you will not be hurt; they will catch you if you fall. Now, on the count of three, just allow yourself to go on a free fall. Take away your fears. One, two, three! And the volunteer falls, not backwards but forward.
The video is cut there. We don’t know what follows. But it leaves you wondering if the poor volunteer did not break his bones when he fell. Can you blame him? He had not been told specifically to fall backwards not forward. It must have been painfully traumatic. If you were in his place, I wonder if you would trust your companions ever again.
In our Gospel, Thomas says “Unless I see his wounds I will not believe.” I think he means “I will not believe you.” There are many instances or painful occurrences, such as experiences of betrayal of trust that are so traumatic, they make you lose trust in everybody else. There are people who have lost trust in humanity because they had been victimized by one human being and never had the chance to process the experience.
Last Good Friday, I saw one digital poster circulating in the social media. It says “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.” Do we not often hear the dialogue line in melodramatic soap operas, “I will never love again; I will not allow myself to get hurt that badly ever again.”
I also remember one funny line from the Gospel of Peanuts. It says, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.” It sounds a bit like Mahatma Gandhi’s “I like your Christ; it is your Christians I do not like.”
That applies to us too in many ways. We tend to be more comfortable with a divine Christ; we find it difficult to accept his humanity because we tend to project on him our own notion of humanity.
I wonder if this is not what Jesus himself was implying when he is quoted by John as saying in John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and have faith also in me.” The disciples have faith in the God they have encountered in Jesus. But their faith is tested the moment they deal with his humanity—that he is bound to suffer and die like them.
It is an easy thing to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior when he heals us, when he has power over evil spirits, or when he preaches with authority. It is another thing when they see him also struggling with his humanity, when he grapples with his fears and is rendered helpless on the cross.
The letter to the Hebrews says this about the different kind of priesthood represented by Christ. He says in Hebrews 4:15 “…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”
I think that is the best way to sum up the meaning of the devotion to The Divine Mercy, which we celebrate today, the second Sunday of Easter.
Divine Mercy is about the God who does not give up on us even when we fall into sin or are defeated by our human weaknesses. It is an empowering message: If God does not give up on us, why should we give up on ourselves? If God does not condemn us, why should we condemn each other? How can we claim to have faith in God and forget about God’s faith in us?
Yes, human beings in this world are capable of a lot of evil; but they are also capable of a lot of good. Satan has a clever way of demoralizing us: he makes us dwell on the trauma of being wounded, rejected, condemned or betrayed, so that we are conditioned into believing that everybody else is out to hurt us.
But the Risen Jesus cannot be outdone. He teaches us to touch his wounds because it is by his wounds that we are healed. Remember the Three O’Clock Payer? It is from his wounded side that “the source of life flowed out for souls and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.”
The prayer ends with a declaration of trust, JESUS I TRUST IN YOU. To trust in Jesus is not only to trust in God, but also in the new kind of humanity that he represents.
We no longer equate humanity with the fallen Adam. In the Resurrected Christ, we have a new template for humanity. His suffering and death is not a sign of weakness but of power. His overflowing mercy is what lifts up our lowly humanity into divinity.
Homily of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2021, John 20:19-31