Three times in today’s Gospel, the risen Jesus says to his disciples, ‘Peace be with you’, and the effect of his presence among them is that they are filled with joy. The channels through which this peace and joy flow from Jesus into his disciples are the open wounds in his side and his hands. It is when he shows them his hands and his side that they finally ‘see the Lord’ and are filled with joy. Through these openings, Jesus’ inner life of unity with the Father and the Spirit is poured out on his disciples: they become one with him as he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And being one with him, they share his mission to draw everyone into that unity of life and love. Sin is what drags people apart from each other and from God, so the gift of peace that Jesus gives carries with it the gift of forgiveness. The love of God, made visible and accessible through the wounds of Jesus, has the power to heal and forgive all people.
One disciple is not with the others to receive this gift of peace, forgiveness and joy from Jesus, and he is unwilling to receive it on their word. He demands physical proof and it seems that Jesus offers him that proof eight days later when he appears again with the same words: Peace be with you. But the Gospel doesn’t say that Thomas actually probes the wounds of Jesus: instead, as soon as Jesus invites him to do so he says ‘My Lord and my God!’, responding at last with faith rather than doubt.
Pope Francis is always reminding us that the Church exists to be a channel of God’s love and mercy to all people so that they will all experience the joy of God’s presence. The life of God flowing from the wounds of Christ is not something we can contain and keep for ourselves. It must flow out through us to others, bringing them peace and joy, and perhaps it can flow most effectively not from our strengths but from our wounds.