“These are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” John 20:31
So, why should we believe John? His gospel differs from that of the others in more ways than they agree. All of their words are the words of itinerant fishermen who at least in theory had limited education and an ax to grind with the establishment of their day. The establishment, if we believe the story, killed their leader and then the body ended up missing while in their care.
The answer lies in the story of Thomas, which John just related. Thomas in Aramaic is תאומא, and it means a twin. It’s root is תמ which means the perfection of simplicity. When Marcus Jastrow defines the term, he states it relates to twins who are so close that when one twin feels pain, so does the other. When one feels joy, so does the other. We believe John because we are already members of the community and want to believe, sometimes in spite of the evidence. John lived at a time that was rough for Christians, and so do we. We constantly fight those who worship Mercury, Mars, and Moneta Juno, and some of those claim to be Christian.
Who is Thomas’ twin? It is each of us. Hebrew does not have a past or a future tense. Everything is in the present. The event may be in the past, but the recollection of it is in the present. As we read the gospel, if we read it well, we relive the events in the present. When Thomas Puts his finger into his hands, feels and sees, when he brings his hand and puts it into Jesus’ side, we put our fingers into his hands and into his side. We do this in our participation in the Mass.
As we read earlier in the Gospel, “Mary of Magdala said this turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus told her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus told her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen Kyrie,” and what he told her.
When John writes this, he seems to have the story of Ruth in mind, “Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Where you die I will die, and there be buried. May the NAME do thus to me, and more, if even death separates me from you!”
Why should we believe John? Because the Gospel is not written to non-Christians. It is not written to non-believing Greeks or non-believing Jews. It is written to those who are members of the community already. The appeal is not to become a Christian. The appeal is to follow Ruth’s example. It is to go where Jesus goes. It is to be homeless. Hebrew has two words for lodging. Shekan means to dwell and implies some permanence. The Hebrew word used in Ruth implies living with no permanent place. Then comes the big demand, “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God. It is an appeal to the community to be just that, a community that cleaves to each other, is one with each other.
Jesus tells Mary not to cleave to him like he is some fuzzy white thing out there. Cleave to the community. Don’t take your bibles to town son, leave your bibles at home. Don’t take your bibles to town. Mary Magdala does not go to the apostles with a great book with proof texts. She goes with what she saw and heard. Likewise, Jesus does not send us out into the world with a proof text. He sends us out into the world with saw we saw and heard, how meeting him in the Mass and in our lives affected us. John does not give us a proof text. He calls us to be twins of Thomas, feeling what he felt, seeing what he saw, hearing what he heard, smelling what he smelled, tasting what he tasted, and so forth.
The one warning is that to do this, we must hear, see, taste, touch, smell, and feel. This required intentionality. This means coming to Mass early and leaving late. It means spending time with the statues and the Stations of the Cross and putting our mind into all that is happing. It means letting the Mas bring us to Thomas, so he can bring us to Jesus.