1. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. We’re almost there. We’re so close now to the annual celebration of the birth of Mary’s Son, God’s only-begotten Son. What joy it brings us! Even after all these years, what wonder and even surprise it still brings us. But, what if the birth of Christ brought us one more surprise? What if, to our surprise, Jesus had a twin? Twins don’t come as a surprise much nowadays. Prenatal tests almost always detect a second baby growing inside a mother during pregnancy. Nowadays, parents usually have several months to get the extra things that they would need to take care of two babies at the same time instead of just one. But, not in the old days. In the old days, once a mother delivered that little bundle of joy, it would come as a complete surprise when the doctor said, “There’s one more.” Prepare to be shocked.
2. Most of us know St. Thomas only as doubting Thomas, the one who wouldn’t believe the other disciples when they told him that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said the only way he would believe was if he touched the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his hand to Jesus’ side, where the spear had pierced him. He just wasn’t going to be hurt even more after he’d seen his Lord dead by believing what he thought was some desperate tale about a resurrection. And so we usually think of Thomas only as a skeptic and a doubter. But, the fact of the matter is that he could also show great loyalty and devotion. We heard an example of that in today’s first reading. A message had come to Jesus that one of his friends, Lazarus, was very ill in Bethany. In the course of events, Jesus told his disciples that they were going to Bethany to see Lazarus.
3. But the disciples hesitated at this idea. Because Bethany was in Judea, and it had been only a short time earlier that the religious leaders in Judea had tried to stone Jesus and kill him. Jesus had made the claim to them not only that he existed before Abraham, but also that He was the Lord God, the great I am. The Jews took this to be blasphemy and desired to stone Him. But, Jesus hid Himself and eluded them. So, to go back to Judea would be to risk life and limb, both for Jesus and His disciples.
4. But after their discussion, Thomas said these words, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jn 11:16). Despite the risk, Thomas was willing to go with Jesus. Even in the face of death, Thomas didn’t want to depart from Jesus’ side. Though Thomas, like the rest of the disciples, wouldn’t be so bold later on, His courage and faithfulness here are to be praised.
5. The name Thomas literally means “twin.” In fact, sometimes he was called Didymus, which is the Greek word for twin. This is a good name for him to have, for it’s a fitting description of all who would be disciples of Jesus. Remember that Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” This is what Jesus calls us to do, to be like Him and to have lives that look just like His, dying with Him in order that we may live with Him. Jesus said in Matt. 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” To Be a Christian Is to Be Christ’s Twin, to be crucified with Him, which means to drown the old Adam with all sins and evil lusts, to repent. It is to lay down your life for others in your daily callings and to be willing to suffer.
6. However, you are also given to be Christ’s twin, not only in His death, but also in His resurrection. For through your Baptism into His body and your faith in His name, you now share in His risen identity. You are little Christs before the throne of heaven, brothers and sisters of Christ, bearing His image before the Father. You are, by His grace, as pure and holy as Jesus Himself. Sharing His identity and image, you also share in His life. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Jesus is the firstborn twin who leads the way for you second-born twins out of the womb of death into new and everlasting life.
7. This is the way Thomas asked about in the second reading. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Jesus has prepared a place for you in the Father’s house by His cross and empty tomb. And Jesus alone is the doorway into that house. Participating in His cross and empty tomb by faith, counting yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, you are given entry to your heavenly home.
8. Thomas would certainly participate in Jesus’ cross. According to tradition, Thomas went on a missionary journey to preach the Gospel in India. There is to this day a Christian community in India that claims descent from Christians first converted by the preaching of Thomas.
9. Tradition states that Thomas was speared to death for what he preached. What a blessed irony that is! For even as Thomas wouldn’t believe until he had touched the spear mark in Jesus’ side, so it was a spear that Thomas would take in his own body for the name of Jesus. Because of his faith in Christ, the very symbol now identified with Thomas is a spear. He truly was Christ’s twin. He shared in Christ’s death, and he will also share in Christ’s resurrection, even as he now dwells according to his soul with Christ His Savior in heaven.
10. So is it also for you. Like Thomas, you’ve been marked as Christ’s twin. You’ve received the sign of the holy cross on both your forehead and your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. Wearing the sign of His death, you shall also wear the crown of life that He has won for you.
11. Okay, so you weren’t born on that first Christmas night, moments after our Savior. You didn’t lie next to Him in the manger. Nothing that shocking. But in your Baptism, you were reborn to die His death. That may come as a surprise, and don’t be shocked if you should someday be asked to give the full measure as Thomas was. But live also the life of your Twin, a life of sacrifice, a life of suffering, but above all, a life that never ends, a life that will continue forever, never separated from our Twin. Amen.