On the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Pope Francis said that encountering Christ is done by reaching out to our "wounded brothers" in works of mercy – touching Jesus' own wounds.
“We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to the body – the body – and also to the soul, but the body, I stress, of your wounded brother,” the Bishop of Rome taught at his homily for daily Mass at the chapel of Saint Martha House in the Vatican July 3.
“Because”, Pope Francis added, “he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked, because he is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he is in jail, because he is in hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today.”
St. Thomas was sceptical of Christ's resurrection, and did not believe until his put his finger in Jesus' wounded side.
“He wanted him to wait a week … he gives the time he believes best for each of us.”
The Roman Pontiff found it significant that in touching Jesus' wound, St. Thomas did not say, “It's true: the Lord is risen,” but instead worshipped him, saying, “My Lord and my God!”
"And so we understand what the Lord’s intention was when he made him wait: he wanted to guide his disbelief, not to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but to an affirmation of his divinity.”
The “path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other,” emphasized Pope Francis.
He taught that meditation or penance by themselves are not the way to encounter the Son of God.
Pope Francis said that believing that “the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation” is “dangerous,” and that some have been “lost on that path, never to return.”
“They arrive yes, perhaps, to knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that,” he preached.
Trying to reach God only through meditation, he added, “does not lead to a safe harbour.”
Focusing only on penance – mortification, austerity, fasting – is not a safe means to meet Christ either, he said.
“They are the Pelagians, who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts … not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ.”
The narrow path to meet Christ is through his wounds, found in his wounded brethren, taught Pope Francis.
“Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards him, but through these his wounds.”
And yet, he said, it is not enough to “set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help.”
While calling this approach “important,” he added that “if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic,” and will not succeed in meeting Christ.
“We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally,” he clarified.
He pointed to both St. Thomas and to his namesake for evidence of his teaching.
“Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed.”
The pontiff explained that we don't need a “refresher course” to meet Christ: “it is sufficient to go out onto the street.”
“Let us ask St. Thomas,” he concluded, “for the grace to have the courage to enter into the wounds of Jesus with tenderness and thus we will certainly have the grace to worship the living God.”