Skip to content

Benedict XVI on The Apostle Thomas

"His Question Gives Us the Right ... to Ask Jesus for Explanations"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 28, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at Wednesday's general audience, dedicated to present the figure of the Apostle Thomas.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Continuing with our encounters with the Twelve Apostles chosen directly by Jesus, today we dedicate our attention to Thomas. Always present in the four lists of the New Testament, he is presented in the first three Gospels next to Matthew (cf. Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15), while in the Acts of the Apostles he appears next to Philip (cf. Acts 1:13). His name stems from a Hebrew root, "ta'am," which means "twin." In fact, John's Gospel calls him sometimes with the nickname "Didymus" (cf. John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2), which in Greek means precisely "twin." The reason for this name is not clear.

The fourth Gospel, in particular, gives us some information which offers us some significant characteristics of his personality. The first is the exhortation he made to the other apostles when Jesus, at a critical moment of his life, decided to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus, thus coming dangerously close to Jerusalem (cf. Mark 10:32). On that occasion, Thomas said to his fellow disciples: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16). His determination when it came to following the Master is truly exemplary and gives us a precious teaching: It reveals the total willingness of adherence to Jesus to the point of identifying his own fate with His, and of wanting to share with Him the supreme trial of death.

In fact, what is most important is never to distance oneself from Jesus. When the Gospels use the verb "follow," they intend to explain that wherever he goes, his disciple must also go. Thus, Christian life is defined as a life with Jesus Christ, a life that must be spent with him. St. Paul wrote something similar when he calmed Christians of Corinth with these words: "You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together" (2 Corinthians 7:3). What is true between the Apostle and his Christians must also be true above all in the relationship between Christians and Jesus himself: to die together, to live together, to be in his heart as he is in ours.

A second intervention of Thomas is recorded in the Last Supper. On that occasion, Jesus, predicting his imminent departure, announces that he will go to prepare a place for the disciples so that they will also be where he is; and he specifies: "And you know the way where I am going" (John 14:4). Then Thomas intervenes, saying: "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (John 14:5).

In reality, with these words he places himself in a rather low level of understanding, but [his words] offer Jesus the opportunity to utter the famous definition: "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). Therefore, in the first instance, he makes this revelation to Thomas, but it is valid for all of us and for all times. Every time we hear or read these words, we can be in thought next to Thomas and imagine that the Lord also speaks with us as he spoke with him.

At the same time, his question also gives us the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for explanations. We often do not understand him. We must have the courage to say to him: I do not understand you, Lord, hear me, help me to understand. In this way, with such frankness, which is the authentic way to pray, to converse with Jesus, we express the littleness of our capacity to understand, but at the same time we assume the attitude of trust of one who expects light and strength from the one able to give them.

Then, very well known, even proverbial, is the scene of Thomas' incredulity, which took place eight days after Easter. Initially, he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and had said: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). Deep down, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus is no longer recognized by his face, but rather by the wounds. Thomas believes that the characteristic signs of Jesus' identity are now above all his wounds, in which is revealed to what point he has loved us. In this the apostle is not mistaken.

As we know, eight days later, Jesus again appears to his disciples and on this occasion Thomas is present. And Jesus says to him: "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (John 20:27).

Thomas reacts with the most splendid profession of faith of the New Testament: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). In this connection, St. Augustine comments: Thomas "saw and touched the man, but confessed his faith in God, whom he did not see or touch. But what he saw and touched led him to believe that which until then he had doubted" ("In Iohann" 121, 5). The evangelist continues with one last phrase of Jesus addressed to Thomas: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (John 20:29).

This phrase can also be enunciated in the present: "Blessed are those who do not see and believe." In any case, Jesus enunciates here a fundamental principle for Christians who will come after Thomas, that is, for all of us. It is interesting to observe how another Thomas, the great medieval theologian from Aquino, joins this blessedness with another referred to by Luke that seems opposed: "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!" (Luke 10:23).

However, Thomas Aquinas comments: "He has much more merit who believes without seeing than he who seeing, believes" ("In Iohann. XX lectio" VI paragraph 2566). In fact, the Letter to the Hebrews, recalling all the series of ancient biblical patriarchs, who believed in God without seeing the fulfillment of his promises, defines faith as "guarantee of what is hoped for; the proof of realities that are not seen" (11:1).

The case of the Apostle Thomas is important for us at least for three reasons: first, because it consoles us in our insecurities; second, because it shows us that every doubt can have a luminous end beyond any uncertainty; and, finally, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the authentic meaning of mature faith and encourages us to continue, despite the difficulties, on the path of fidelity to Him.

The fourth Gospel has preserved for us a last note on Thomas, on presenting him as witness of the Risen One in the moment after the miraculous catch on the Lake of Tiberias (cf. John 21:2). On that occasion, he is mentioned also immediately after Simon Peter: an evident sign of the notable importance that he enjoyed in the ambit of the first Christian communities. In fact, in his name, were later written the "Acts" and the "Gospel of Thomas," both apocryphal, but in any case important for the study of Christian origins.

Let us recall, finally, that according to an ancient tradition, Thomas evangelized in the first instance Syria and Persia (so says Origen, as referred by Eusebius of Caesarea, "Hist. eccl." 3,1) and later went as far as western India (cf. "Acts of Thomas" 1-2: 17 and following), from where Christianity also later reached the south of India. We end our reflection with this missionary perspective, hoping that Thomas' example will increasingly confirm our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.

[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Continuing our catechesis on the apostles, I wish to reflect today on Thomas the Twin. It is most especially in John's Gospel that we learn about Thomas. At a dangerous time in our Lord's life, when he decided to visit Lazarus in Bethany, it was Thomas who said: "Let us also go, that we may die with him." He shows us that the most important thing is never to distance oneself from Jesus. The life of a Christian is one spent together with the Lord.

At the Last Supper, it is Thomas who says: "Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" His question leads to the celebrated response: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Jesus also proclaims these words to us today.

A further episode in Thomas' life is well known to us all: that of the "doubting Thomas," who says "unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails ... I will not believe." Yet, once Jesus appears to him he utters the most splendid profession of faith in all the New Testament: "My Lord and my God!"

Let us take heart from the life of Thomas: He comforts us in our uncertainty; shows us that doubt can lead to spiritual growth, and he helps us learn from Jesus the true meaning of mature faith, encouraging us to persevere as disciples of Christ!

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present today, including participants in the Pauline Colloquium, Friends of L'Osservatore Romano, and the Villa Maria College choir from Christchurch, New Zealand. I also greet in a special way the Asian Mission Congress Delegates and Pilgrims from Thailand. Upon all of you I invoke God's blessings of peace and joy!

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


The Vatican , VA
Pope Benedict XVI - Bishop of Rome, 661 869-1000



Pope, Benedict, Apostle, Thomas, Jesus

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.