(CNS/Paul Haring)

(CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN, July 3, 2013 (CNS) — The only way to truly touch the living Christ is through the tender care of his wounds in the poor, sick and outcasts of today, Pope Francis said.

Just as St. Thomas’ life changed when he touched Jesus’ wounds, people who lovingly care for the body and soul of those in need will see their lives transformed, too, the pope said July 3 during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

In his homily on the feast of St. Thomas, the pope said people have tried a number of ways to experience the living Christ and none is as effective and direct as encountering him through “his wounds. There’s no other way.”

“A refresher course” is useless for learning how to encounter the living God; all it takes is “getting out onto the street,” the pope said, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

“In the history of the church, there have been some mistakes made on the path toward God,” Pope Francis said. Some have believed God could be found through meditation alone or by trying to “reach higher through meditation. That’s dangerous! How many are lost on that path and never get there.”

Perhaps they acquire greater knowledge or understanding of God, he said, “but not of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Others have tried to find him through mortification, austerity and “the path of penitence, just penitence and fasting,” believing they could get to God merely through their own efforts, he said.

Through Thomas, the pope said, Jesus tells people he can be found through his wounds.

“Today you find Jesus’ wounds by carrying out works of mercy, giving the body — and the soul, too — but the body, I emphasize, of your wounded brother or sister” because their bodies are hurting.

Those who are hungry, thirsty, without clothes, humiliated, enslaved, imprisoned or hospitalized are all examples of “the wounds of Jesus today,” Pope Francis said.

Some may say, “Oh, great! Let’s set up a foundation to help all of them and let’s do lots of nice things to help them,” he said. While that kind of help is important, that approach alone reduces people to being “just philanthropists.”

As Christians, “we have to touch Jesus’ wounds, we have to caress them, heal them with tenderness, we have to kiss Jesus’ wounds, literally,” the pope said.

The pope asked that people pray to St. Thomas for the grace and courage to “enter into the wounds of Jesus with our tenderness, and surely we will have the grace to worship the living God.” (Carol Glatz)