Monday, October 7, 2013

Pope Francis on Kissing and Caressing Jesus' Wounds

The image of St Francis kissing the leper has been consistently in my mind since last Thursday's celebration of Francis' Transitus. In a reflection on St Francis I gave at our celebration of the Transitus here at Bellarmine University, I mentioned how moved I've been to see Pope Francis emulate St Francis in his interactions with people, often embracing and kissing the ill and marginalized.

Last July, during one of his last morning masses before his summer vacation, Pope Francis gave a homily on the apostle Thomas and his need to touch the wounds of Christ.  I didn't notice this homily back in July, but it has since been brought to my attention.  Exceptionally beautiful, but also very challenging.  Francis here puts a mirror up to all of us, and asks us how willing we are to kiss and caress the wounds of Jesus in our wounded brothers and sisters.

Video of the homily is below, as is a translation of the homily.  Both are from

[Thomas] was stubborn. But the Lord wanted exactly that, a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord, was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side and he did not say, 'It's true: the Lord is risen'. No! He went further. He said: 'God'. The first of the disciples who makes the confession of the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshiped Him
In the history of the Church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation, indeed that we can reach higher through meditation. That's dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return. Yes perhaps they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the Gnostics, no? They are good, they work, but it is not the right path. It’s very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbor.
We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to our body – the body – the soul too, but – I stress - the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these His wounds. 'Oh, great! Let's set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help'. That's important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic. 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. Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed.


  1. Not everyone is called to what Pope Francis is. Some are actually called to bear His wounds, unseen and unnoticed but just the same there penetrating a person's body as real as a nail and soul as well. In silence and solitude in God if one is called to this he touches, kisses everyone and is capable of kissing everyone's sores and wounds and will.

  2. I wonder what he meant by "meditation"? Is that really the most accurate translation? I ask because I cannot imagine he would include lectio divina in that. Praying with the Gospels, something that I include in my definition of "meditation", develops in us a real relationship with Jesus that makes us recognize Him and His wounds in the poor, disabled, imprisoned, and marginalized, and it's what makes us want to kiss and caress Him in them. Doing so increases our yearning then to encounter Him in His Word in prayer. Perhaps he was referring to a gnostic form of "centering prayer" that isn't about finding Jesus as your center, but about evolving yourself into a divine something or other loosely referred to as "Christ", which hungers for acquisition of esoteric knowledge gained inside closed-off walls of pride. ???