This call to go out on mission is also addressed to us, the pontiff told those present.
"How can we fail to hear its echo in the great appeal of Saint John Paul II: 'Open the doors'?" He spoke of the temptation of priests and consecrated person to remain closed off, either out of fear or convenience.
"But Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of going forth from ourselves," he said. "It is a one-way trip, with no return ticket. It involves making an exodus from ourselves, losing our lives for his sake."
"In other words, the life of Jesus' closest disciples, which is what we are called to be, is shaped by concrete love, a love, in other words, marked by service and availability."
Addressing the congregation, Francis explained how those "who choose to model their entire life on Jesus" relinquish the right to choose where they are sent, and even their houses do not belong to them.
This is "because the Church and the world are the open spaces of their mission, he said.
They do not build their lives on "shaky foundations of worldly power," nor do they compromise evangelization for comforts, the pontiff said. They do not "waste time planning a secure future, lest they risk becoming isolated and gloomy, enclosed within the narrow walls of a joyless and desperate self-centredness."
"Finding their happiness in the Lord, they are not content with a life of mediocrity, but burn with the desire to bear witness and reach out to others," he explained. "Rather than just getting by, they rejoice to evangelize."
Pope Francis turned his reflection to the scene in the day's Gospel which recounts St. Thomas, who had previously doubted the resurrection, encountering the risen Christ.
The hesitant and somewhat stubborn St. Thomas "is a bit like us," the Pope said, and therefore "we find him likeable."
"Without knowing it, he gives us a great gift: he brings us closer to God, because God does not hide from those who seek him."
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The Pope stressed to the congregation of priests and religious the importance of putting "our humanity in contact with the flesh of the Lord," like Thomas who touched the wounds of Jesus.
"That is the way to seek God: through prayer that is transparent and unafraid to hand over to him our troubles, our struggles and our resistance," he said.
"Jesus' heart is won over by sincere openness, by hearts capable of acknowledging and grieving over their weakness, yet trusting that precisely there God's mercy will be active."
The Pope explained how Jesus wants hearts that are "truly consecrated," which are "open and tender towards the weak," and which "do not dissimulate before those whom the Church appoints as our guides."
He added that disciples are not afraid of asking questions, but rather "have the courage to face their misgivings and bring them to the Lord, to their formators and superiors, without calculations or reticence."
Recalling the words of St. Thomas when he came to believe in Jesus' resurrection – "My Lord and my God" – Francis encouraged the daily recitation of this acclamation, saying to the Lord: "You are my one treasure, the path I must follow, the core of my life, my all."