On Faith in the Resurrection (Year of Faith)
"The death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope"

VATICAN CITY, April 03, 2013  - Here is a translation of the address Francis gave this morning during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. He took up again the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning.

Today we continue the Catechesis of the Year of Faith. In the Creed we repeat this phrase: "On the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures." This is the event we are celebrating: the Resurrection of Jesus, the center of the Christian message, which has echoed right from the very start and has been passed on so that it might reach us. St. Paul writes to the Christians of Corinth: "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I, in turn, had received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve"(1 Cor 15:3-5). This short confession of faith announces the Paschal mystery, with the first appearances of the Risen Christ to Peter and the twelve: the death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope. Without this faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus our hope would be weak, it would not even be hope, and precisely the death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope. The Apostle affirms: "If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (v. 17). Unfortunately, often attempts have been made to obscure the faith in the resurrection of Jesus, and even among the believers themselves, doubts have crept in. A bit of that “watered down” faith, as we say; it is not the strong faith. This is on account of superficiality, or sometimes because of indifference, occupied as one is with a thousand things deemed more important than the faith, or because of a merely horizontal vision of life. But it is the resurrection that opens us up to a greater hope, because it opens our lives and the life of the world to God's eternal future, to full happiness, to the certainty that evil, sin, death can be defeated. And this leads to live the daily realities with more confidence, to face them with courage and commitment. The resurrection of Christ illumines these daily realities with a new light. The Resurrection of Christ is our strength!

But how has the truth of faith in the resurrection of Christ been transmitted to us? There are two types of testimony in the New Testament: some are in the form of a profession of faith, namely, synthetic formulas that indicate the center of the faith; others are in the form of the story of the resurrection and of the events related to it. The first: the form of the profession of faith, for example, is that which we have just heard, or that of the Epistle to the Romans where Paul writes: "Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved"(10:9). Since the first steps of the Church, faith in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus has been very firm and clear. Today, however, I would like to dwell on the second form, on testimony in the form of narrative, which we find in the Gospels. First, we notice that the first witnesses of this event were women. At dawn, they went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (cf. Mk 16:1). Then follows an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). Women are driven by love and know how to welcome this announcement with faith: they believe, and immediately they transmit it, they do not keep it to themselves. The joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills our hearts, cannot be contained. This should occur also in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christians! We believe in a Risen Lord who has defeated evil and death! Let us have the courage to "come out" to bring this joy and this light into all the places of our lives! The resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty; it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share with others this treasure, this certainty? It is not only for us, it is to be communicated, to be given to others, to be shared with others. This is precisely our testimony.

Another element. In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only the men, the Apostles, are remembered as witnesses of the resurrection, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish law of that time, women and children could not give a reliable, credible testimony. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can grasp an element in favour of the historicity of the resurrection: if it were a made-up event, in the context of that time it would not have been tied to the women's testimony. Instead the evangelists simply narrate what happened: women are the first witnesses. This says that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people; the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. And this is beautiful. And this is to some degree the mission of women: of the mothers, of women! To give witness to their children, their grandchildren, that Jesus is alive, he is the Living One, he is risen. Mothers and women, go forward with this testimony! For God the heart counts, how open we are to Him, if we are like children who trust. But this makes us reflect also on how women in the Church and in the journey of faith, have had and now have a particular role in opening the doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the gaze of faith always needs the simple and profound gaze of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the risen Christ. The women don’t. Peter runs to the tomb, but stops at the empty tomb; Thomas must touch with his hands the wounds of the body of Jesus. Also in our faith journey, it is important to know and feel that God loves us, don't be afraid to love Him: faith is professed with the mouth and the heart, with words and with love.

After the appearances to the women, others follow: Jesus makes himself present in a new way: he is the Crucified One, but his body is glorious; he has not come back to earthly life, but has returned in a new condition. At the beginning they do not recognize him, and only through his words and gestures are their eyes opened: the encounter with the Risen One tranforms, gives a new force to the faith, an unshakeable foundation. For us too there are many signs in which the Risen One makes himself recognized: Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the other sacraments, charity, those gestures of love that bring a ray of the Risen Lord. Let us allow ourselves to be enlightened by the resurrection of Christ, let us allow ourselves to be transformed by his strength, so that also through us in the world, the signs of death may give way to signs of life. I have seen that there are many young people in the Square. There they are! To you I say: bring forward this certainty: the Lord is alive and he walks side by side with us in life. This is your mission! Bring forward this hope. Be anchored to this hope: this anchor that is in heaven; hold firm to the chain, be anchored and bring forward hope. You, witnesses of Jesus, bring forward the testimony that Jesus is alive and this will give us hope, it will give hope to this world that has somewhat grown old on account of the wars, evil, sin. Go forward, young people!

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Christ's Resurrection (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, April 10, 2013 - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. He took up again the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! In the last Catechesis we focused on the event of the resurrection of Jesus, in which women played a special role. Today I would like to reflect on the event's salvific significance. What does the resurrection mean for our lives? And why is our faith in vain without it?

Our faith is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, just as a house rests on foundations: if these give way, the whole house collapses. On the cross, Jesus offered himself, taking upon himself our sins and descending into the abyss of death, and in the Resurrection he conquers, he takes [our sins] away and opens the path for us to be reborn to a new life. St. Peter expresses this succinctly at the beginning of his First Letter, as we heard: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" (1:3-4).

The Apostle tells us that with the resurrection of Jesus, something absolutely new happens: we are freed from the slavery of sin and become God's children, we are generated, thus, to a new life. When is this realized for us? In the sacrament of Baptism. In ancient times, it was usually performed by immersion. The person to be baptized descended into the large basin in the baptistery, taking off his clothes, and the bishop or priest poured water three times over his head, baptizing him in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then the baptized person came out of the baptismal font and put on the new, white garment: this signified that he was born to a new life, by immersing himself in the death and resurrection of Christ. He had become a son of God. St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans writes: you have received a spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba! Father!”(Rom 8:15). It is the Spirit that we have received in baptism that teaches us, it urges us, to say to God: “Father”, or better, “Abba!”, which means “dad”. This is our God: He is a dad for us. The Holy Spirit produces in us this new condition of being sons of God. And this is the greatest gift that we receive from the Paschal mystery of Jesus. And God treats us as children, He understands us, forgives us, embraces us and loves us even when we make mistakes. Already in the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said that even if a mother could forget her child, God never forgets us, ever (cf. 49:15). And this is beautiful!

However, this filial relationship with God is not like a treasure that we store in a corner of our lives, but has to grow, it must be fed every day by listening to the Word of God, praying and participating in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and through charity. We can live as children! And this is our dignity – we have the dignity of children -. To behave as true children! This means that every day we must let Christ transform us and make us like him; it means trying to live as Christians, trying to follow him, even if we see our limitations and weaknesses. The temptation is always there to leave God aside in order put to ourselves at the center and the experience of sin wounds our Christian life, our being sons of God. For this we must have the courage of faith, and not allow ourselves to be guided by that mentality that says to us: "God is useless, he's not important for you". It is the exact opposite: it is only by acting like sons of God, without getting discouraged because of our falls, because of our sins, feeling loved by Him, that our lives will be new, animated by serenity and joy. God is our strength! God is our hope!

Dear brothers and sisters, we, before all others, need to have this hope firmly rooted and need to be a visible sign of it, bright and clear for everyone. The risen Lord is the hope that never diminishes, that never disappoints (cf. Rom 5:5). Hope never deludes. That hope that comes from the Lord! How often in our lives do our hopes vanish, how often do the expectations we nourish in our hearts not come about! Our hope as Christians is strong, secure, solid in this land, where God has called us to walk, and is open to eternity, because it is founded on God, who is always faithful. We must not forget: God is faithful; God is always faithful with us. Being risen with Christ through baptism, by the gift of faith, to an inheritance that does not corrupt, leads us to seek the things of God, to think of Him more often, to pray to Him more. Being a Christian isn't just following the commandments, but means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him; it means letting him take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, free them from the darkness of evil and sin.

Dear brothers and sisters, to those who ask us an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), let us point out the risen Christ. Let us point him out by announcing the Word, but especially by our risen life. Let us manifest the joy of being children of God, the freedom that living in Christ gives, he who is the true freedom, freedom from the slavery of evil, sin and death! Let us look to our heavenly homeland, we will have a new light and strength also in our work and in our daily toil. It is a valuable service that we must render to our world, which often can no longer lift its gaze upward, it no longer manages to lift its gaze towards God.

Speaker:

In our continuing catechesis on the Creed during the Year of Faith we now consider the meaning of Christ’s resurrection for us and for our salvation. The Lord’s death and resurrection are the foundation of our faith; by his triumph over sin and death, Christ has opened for us the way to new life. Reborn in Baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and become God’s adoptive sons and daughters. God is now our Father: he treats us as his beloved children; he understands us, forgives us, embraces us, and loves us even when we go astray. Christianity is not simply a matter of following commandments; it is about living a new life, being in Christ, thinking and acting like Christ, and being transformed by the love of Christ! But this new life needs to be nourished daily by hearing God’s word, prayer, sharing in the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, and the exercise of charity. God must be the centre of our lives! By our daily witness to the freedom, joy and hope born of Christ’s victory over sin and death, we also offer a precious service to our world, helping our brothers and sisters to lift their gaze heavenward to the God of our salvation.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

17th April, 2013

General Audience: Jesus, the only and eternal Priest (Year of Faith) 

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the Creed, we find the affirmation that Jesus "ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father." The earthly life of Jesus culminates in the event of the Ascension, that is, when he passes from this world to the Father, and is lifted up to His right hand side. What is the significance of this event? What are the consequences for our lives? What does it mean to contemplate Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father? Let us be guided by the Evangelist Luke.

We begin from the moment Jesus decides to embark on his last pilgrimage to Jerusalem. St. Luke notes: " When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk 9:51). While he "ascends" to the Holy City, where his "exodus" from this life will be accomplished, Jesus already sees the goal, Heaven, but he knows that the path that brings him back to the glory of God passes through the Cross, through obedience to the divine plan of love for humanity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that " the lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it" (n. 661). We too must be clear in our Christian life, that to enter into the glory of God requires daily fidelity to His will, even when it requires sacrifice, when at times it requires us to change our plans. The Ascension of Jesus actually happened on the Mount of Olives, near the place where he had retired in prayer before his passion to be in profound union with the Father; once again we see that prayer gives us the grace to faithfully live out God's project for us.

At the end of his Gospel, St. Luke narrates the event of the Ascension in a very synthetic way. Jesus led the disciples "[out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God "(24.50 to 53). I would like to note two elements of the passage. First, during the Ascension Jesus fulfilled the priestly gesture of blessing and certainly the disciples express their faith with prostration, they kneel and bow their heads. This is a first important point: Jesus is the only and eternal Priest, who with his passed through death and the tomb and rose again and ascended into Heaven; He is with God the Father, where he always intercedes in our favor (cf. Heb 9:24). As St John writes in his First Letter, He is our advocate, our advocate with the Father (cf. 2:1-2). It’s nice to hear this. The first thing we do when we are called by a judge or are called to trial, the first thing we do is look for an advocate to defend us. We have One who always defends us. He defends us from the insidiousness of the Devil, He defends us from ourselves, from our sins. But, dear brothers and sisters, we have this advocate. We must not be afraid to turn to Him, to turn to him with our fears, to ask for his blessing and mercy. He always forgives us, He is our advocate, He always defends us. We must never forget this. The Ascension of Jesus into heaven then reveals to us this reality that is so comforting for our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was brought to God; He has opened the passage up for us, He is like a leader at the head of the rope when you scale a mountain, who has reached the summit and draws us up to him leading us to God . If we entrust our lives to Him, if we let ourselves be guided by Him we are sure to be in safe hands. In the hands of our Savoir, our advocate.

A second element: St Luke mentions that the apostles, after seeing Jesus ascending to heaven, returned to Jerusalem "with great joy." This seems a bit strange. Typically when we are separated from our families, our friends, in a lasting separation, above all because of death, we are naturally sad, because we will no longer see their face, or hear their voice, we will no longer be able to enjoy their affection, their presence. Instead, the evangelist emphasizes the profound joy of the Apostles. How come? Because, with the eyes of faith, they understand that although subtracted from their eyes, Jesus remains with them forever, He is not abandoning them, and in the glory of the Father, supports them, guides them and intercedes for them.

St. Luke narrates the fact of the Ascension in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, to emphasize that this event is like the ring that engages and connects the earthly life of Jesus to that of the Church. Here St. Luke also mentions the cloud that took Jesus out of sight of the disciples, who remain to contemplate Christ ascending to God (cf. Acts 1:9-10). Then two men in white robes intervene, urging them not to remain looking at the sky, but to nourish their lives and their witness from the certainty that Jesus will return in the same way they saw him ascend into heaven (Acts 1: 10-11). It is an invitation to begin from the contemplation of the Lordship of Jesus, to receive from him the strength to carry and bear witness to the Gospel in everyday life: contemplation and action, ora et labora St. Benedict teaches, are both necessary in our lives as Christians

Dear brothers and sisters, the Ascension does not indicate the absence of Jesus, but tells us that He is alive among us in a new way; He is no longer in a definite place in the world as He was before the Ascension; He is now in the lordship of God, present in all space and time, next to each of us. We are never alone in our lives: We have this advocate who waits for us, we are never alone, ​​the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us, and with us there are many brothers and sisters who in silence and obscurity, in their family life and work, in their problems and difficulties, their joys and hopes, live their faith every day and, together with us, bring to the world the lordship of God's love.

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed during this Year of Faith, we now consider the article which deals with Christ’s Ascension: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father". Saint Luke invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Ascension in the light of the Lord’s entire life, and particularly his decision to "ascend" to Jerusalem to embrace his saving passion and death in obedience to the Father’s will (cf. Lk 9:51). Two aspects of Luke’s account are significant. First, before returning to the glory of the Father, the risen Jesus blesses his disciples (Lk 24:50). Jesus thus appears as our eternal Priest. True God and true man, he now for ever intercedes for us before the Father. Second, Luke tells us that the Apostles returned to Jerusalem "with great joy" (Lk 24:51). They realize that the risen Lord, though no longer physically present, will always be with them, guiding the life of the Church until he returns in glory. As we contemplate the mystery of the Ascension, may we too bear joyful witness to the Lord’s resurrection, his loving presence in our midst, and the triumph of his Kingdom of life, holiness and love.

------------------------------------------------------------ 

On Christ's Second Coming (Year of Faith - General Audience, April 24)

VATICAN CITY, April 24, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he continued the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning!

In the Creed we profess that Jesus "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." Human history begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and ends with the final judgment of Christ. Often these two poles of history are forgotten, and, above all, faith in the return of Christ and the last judgment sometimes is not so clear and steadfast in the hearts of Christians. Jesus, during his public life, often focused on the reality of his last coming. Today I would like to reflect on three Evangelical texts that help us enter this mystery: that of the ten virgins, the talents and the final judgment. All three are part of the Jesus' discourse on the end of times, in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

First of all remember that, with the Ascension, the son of God brought to the Father our humanity that he took on and he wants to draw all men to himself, to call the whole world to be welcomed into the open arms of God, so that, at the end of history, all of reality will be handed over to the Father. There is, though, this "intermediate time" between the first coming of Christ and the last, which is precisely the time that we are living. The parable of the ten virgins is placed within this context (cf. Mt 25:1-13). It involves ten girls who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, but he delays and they fall asleep. At the sudden announcement that the bridegroom is coming, all prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who were wise, have oil to trim their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with unlit lamps because they have no oil; and while they go out to find some, the groom arrives and the foolish virgins find the door closed that leads to the bridal feast. They knocking persistently, but it is too late, the groom replies: I do not know you. The groom is the Lord, and the waiting time of arrival is the time He gives us, all of us with mercy and patience, before his final coming, it is a time to be vigilant; a time in which we need to keep lit the lamps of the faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep the heart open to the good, to beauty and to the truth; a time to live according to God, because we know neither the day nor the hour of Christ's return. What is asked of us is to be prepared for this encounter – prepared for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus - which means being able to see the signs of his presence, to keep alive our faith through prayer, with the sacraments, to be vigilant in order not to sleep, not to forget God. The Christian life asleep is a sad life, it isn’t a happy life. The Christian must be happy, have the joy of Jesus. Let’s not fall asleep!

The second parable, that of the talents, makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts received from God and his return, when he will ask how we used them (cf. Mt 25:14-30). We know the parable: before departure, the master gives each servant some talents, to use well during his absence. To the first he gives five, to the second, two, and to the third, one. During the period of his absence, the first two servants multiply their talents - ancient coins -, while the third prefers to bury his and deliver it intact to the master. Upon his return, the master judges their work: he commends the first two, while the third is kicked out into the darkness, because he kept his talent hidden out of fear, closing in on himself. A Christian who closes in on himself, who hides everything that the Lord has given him as a Christian that is…he isn’t a Christian! He is a Christian that does not thank God for all that he has given him! This tells us that the time of waiting for the Lord's return is the time of action, - we are in the time of action - the time in which to put to use the gifts of God not for ourselves, but for Him, for the Church, for others, the time during which always to try to increase the good in the world. And especially now, in this time of crisis, it is important not to close in upon oneself, burying one's talent, one’s own spiritual, intellectual, material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open oneself, to be in solidarity, to be attentive to the other. In the square, I saw today there are many young people. Is it so? Are there very many young people? Where are they? To you, who are at the beginning of the journey of life, I ask: have you thought about the talents that God has given you? Have you thought about how you can put them at the service of others? Don't bury your talents! Bet on big ideals, those ideals that enlarge the heart, those ideals that will make your talents fruitful. Life is not given to us so that we can keep it jealously for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may donate it. Dear young people, have a great soul! Don't be afraid to dream great things!

Finally, a word on the passage of the final judgement, that describes the second coming of the Lord, when He will judge all humans, living and dead (cf. Mt 25:31-46). The image used by the Evangelist is that of the Shepherd separating sheep from goats. On the right are those who acted according to the will of God, helping their neighbor who was hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, thus following the Lord himself; while on the left are those who haven't come to the aid of their neighbour. This tells us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest. Of course, we must always keep in mind that we are justified, we are saved by grace, by an act of God's gratuitous love which always precedes us; we alone can do nothing. Faith is first of all a gift that we have received. But to bear fruit, God's grace always requires our openness, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of God who saves. We are asked to trust him, to match the gift of his love with a good life, with actions animated by faith and love.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we never be afraid to look to the final judgment; may it push us rather to live better lives. God gives us with mercy and patience this time so that we may learn every day to recognize him in the poor and in the little ones, may we strive for good and we are vigilant in prayer and love. May the Lord, at the end of our existence and history, may recognize us as good and faithful servants. Thank you!

 

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, we now consider the article which deals with Christ’s second coming: "He will come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead". Just as human history began with the creation of man and woman in the image of God, so it will end with Christ’s return and the final judgment. The parables of Jesus help us to understand our responsibility before God and one another in this present age. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins reminds us that we must be spiritually prepared to meet the Lord when he comes. The parable of the talents emphasizes our responsibility to use wisely God’s gifts, making them bear abundant fruit. Here I would ask the many young people present to be generous with their God-given talents for the good of others, the Church and our world. Finally, the parable of the final judgement reminds us that, in the end, we will be judged on our love for others and especially for those in need. Through these parables, our Lord teaches us to await his coming with fear but confident trust, ever watchful for the signs of his presence and faithful in prayer and works of charity, so that when he comes he will find us his good and faithful servants.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- 

On the Blessed Trinity  (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, May 08, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he continued the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning! The Easter season that we are living with joy, guided by the Church's liturgy, is par excellence the time of the Holy Spirit, given "without measure" (cf. Jn 3:34) by Jesus, crucified and risen. This time of grace ends with the feast of Pentecost, in which the Church relives the outpouring of the Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in prayer in the Cenacle.

But who is the Holy Spirit? In the Creed we profess with faith: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life". The first truth to which we adhere in the Creed is that the Holy Spirit is Kýrios, Lord. This means that he is truly God, as the Father and Son are, the object, for our part, of the same act of adoration and glorification that we address to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity; he is the great gift of the risen Christ that opens our minds and our hearts to faith in Jesus as the Son sent by the Father and that leads us to friendship, to communion with God.

But I would like to dwell in particular on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of the life of God in us. Men of all times and all places want a life that is full and beautiful, just and good, a life that is not threatened by death, but that can mature and grow to its fullness. Man is like a wanderer who, crossing the deserts of life, thirsts for a living water, gushing and fresh, able to quench deeply his profound desire for light, love, beauty and peace. We all feel this desire! And Jesus gives us this living water: it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, and that Jesus pours out into our hearts. "I came that they might have life and have it in abundance», Jesus tells us (Jn 10:10).

Jesus promises the Samaritan woman that he will give a "living water", superabundantly and forever, to all those who recognize him as the Son sent by the Father to save us (cf. Jn 4:5-26, 3:17). Jesus came to give us this "living water" that is the Holy Spirit, so that our life may be guided by God, animated by God, and nourished by God. When we say that the Christian is a spiritual man, we mean just that: a Christian is a person who thinks and acts according to God, according to the Holy Spirit. But I ask: and we, do we think according to God? Do we act according to God? Or do we let ourselves be guided by so many other things that are not exactly God? Each one must answer this in the depths of his heart.

At this point we can ask ourselves: why is it that this water can slake the very depths of our thirst? We know that water is essential for life; without water you die; it quenches thirst, washes, makes the land fertile. In the Letter to the Romans we find this expression: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (5:5). The "living water", the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Lord who makes its home in us, purifies us, enlightens us, renews us, transforms us because it makes us partakers of the very life of God who is Love. For this reason, the Apostle Paul says that the Christian life is animated by the Spirit and its fruits, which are "love, joy, peace, generosity, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit inserts us into the divine life as "sons in the Only-begotten Son". In another passage of the Epistle to the Romans, which we have mentioned several times, St. Paul summarises it with these words: "all those who are led by the spirit of God, are sons of God. And you... have received the Spirit that makes us adoptive children, whereby we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit itself, together with our spirit, attests that we are children of God. And if we are children, we are also heirs: heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order to participate in his glory» (8:14-17). This is the precious gift that the Holy Spirit places in our hearts: the very life of God, life as true sons, a relationship of confidence, freedom and trust in the love and mercy of God, which has as an effect also a new gaze towards others, near and far, always seen as brothers and sisters in Jesus to be respected and loved. The Holy Spirit teaches us to look with the eyes of Christ, to live life as Christ lived it, to understand life as Christ understood it. That's why the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches the thirst of our lives, because it tells us that we are loved by God as children, that we can love God as his children and by his grace we can live as children of God, like Jesus. And we, we listen to the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit tell us? God loves you. It tells us this. God loves you, He desires your good. Do we really love God and others, like Jesus does? Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, let us allow Him to speak to our hearts and tell us this: that God is love, that He is waiting for us, that God is the Father, he loves us as a true Father [Papà], he truly loves us and only the Holy Spirit alone says this to our hearts. Let us hear the Holy Spirit, let us listen to the Holy Spirit and let us go forward on this road of love, of mercy and of forgiveness. Thank you.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, we now consider the article which deals with the Holy Spirit: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life". The Creed tells us that the Spirit is "Lord", fully God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the gift of the Risen Christ, who draws us, through faith, into communion with the Triune God. The Creed also tells us that the Spirit is the "Giver of Life". How greatly we desire true life and the fullness of beauty, love and peace! The Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts, is the pure source of "living water, springing up to eternal life" which Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman. Sent by Jesus from the Father, the Spirit purifies, renews and transforms us; he grants us his sevenfold gifts and makes us children of God our Father. Even now the Holy Spirit invites us to see all things with the eyes of Christ, to recognize God’s immense love for us, and to share that love with all our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis (in italian):

I am pleased to greet the many English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Sweden, Malta, Iran, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. Upon you and your families I invoke an outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Work of the Holy Spirit  (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, May 15, 2013

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning! Today I would like to dwell on the action that the Holy Spirit performs in guiding the Church and each of us to the Truth. Jesus himself says to his disciples: the Holy Spirit "will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:13), being He himself "the Spirit of Truth (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).

We live in an age in which people are rather sceptical towards the truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, of the tendency, that is, to believe that there is nothing definitive and to think that the truth comes from consent or from what we want. The question arises: does "the" truth really exist? What is "the" truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals to him the profound meaning of his mission: "What is truth?" (Jn 18:37.38). Pilate fails to understand that "the" Truth is in front of him, he fails to see in Jesus the face of truth, which is the face of God. Yet, Jesus is just that: the Truth that, in the fullness of time, "became flesh" (Jn 1:1.14), that came among us so that we might we know it. The truth cannot be grasped like an object, the truth has to be encountered. It is not a possession; it is an encounter with a Person.

But who will allow us to recognize that Jesus is "the" Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches that "no one can say: 'Jesus is Lord!' except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ, who makes us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls him the "Paraclete", i.e., "he who comes to help," who is on our side to support us on this journey of knowledge; and, during the Last Supper, Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things, reminding them of his words (cf. Jn 14:26).

What is then the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to lead us to the truth? First of all, he reminds believers and imprints in their hearts the words that Jesus said, and, precisely through these words, God's law – as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced – is inscribed in our hearts and becomes in us a principle for evaluating our choices and a guide in daily actions, it becomes the principle of life. The great prophecy of Ezekiel is fulfilled: "I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will give you a new heart, I will put within you a new spirit ... I will put my spirit within you and I will make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances"(36:25-27). In fact, it is from the depths of ourselves that our actions are born: it is the heart that must convert to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him.

The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promised, guides us "into all the truth" (Jn 16:13); he helps us not only to encounter Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but also guides us "into" the Truth, makes us enter into an ever more profound communion with Jesus himself, giving us understanding of the things of God. And we cannot achieve this by our own strength. If God does not enlighten us inwardly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church states that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts by arousing that "sense of the faith (sensus fidei) through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres indefectibly to the faith transmitted, deepens it with right judgment and applies it more fully in life (cf. Const. Dogm. Lumen Gentium, 12). Let us ask ourselves: am I open to the action of the Holy Spirit, do I pray for it to give me light, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? This is a prayer we must make every day: “Holy Spirit, make my heart be open to the Word of God, that my heart be open to good, that my heart be open to the beauty of God everyday”. I would like to ask you a question: how many of you pray to the Holy Spirit every day? Probably few, but we must satisfy this desire of Jesus and pray every day to the Holy Spirit, so that he opens our heart towards Jesus.

Let us think of Mary, who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart "(Lk 2:19.51). The welcoming of the words and truths of faith in order that they may become life, happens and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense we must learn from Mary, reliving her "Yes," her total willingness to receive the Son of God in her life, which from that moment onwards is transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: we live in God and of God. But is our life truly inspired by God? How many things do I put before God?

Dear brothers and sisters,

We need to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the light of the Holy Spirit, so that he may bring us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have taken any concrete steps to know more about Christ and the truth of the faith, by reading and meditating on the Scripture, studying the Catechism, approaching the Sacraments with constancy. But let us ask ourselves at the same time, what steps are we taking so that faith may guide all our existence. One isn't a Christian "part time", at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in some choices. One cannot be a Christian like this. One is a Christian at all times! Totally! The truth of Christ, which the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, forever and totally affects our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often so that he may guide us on the road of the disciples of Christ. Let us invoke him every day. I make this proposal to you: let us invoke the Holy Spirit every day, thus Holy Spirit will draw us close to Jesus Christ. Thank you!

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our catechesis on the Creed, we have been considering the person and work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls "the Spirit of Truth" (cf. Jn 16:13). In an age skeptical of truth, we believe not only that truth exists, but that it is found through faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus; he guides the whole Church into the fullness of truth. As the "Paraclete", the Helper sent by the Risen Lord, he reminds us of Christ’s words and convinces us of their saving truth. As the source of our new life in Christ, he awakens in our hearts that supernatural "sense of the faith" by which we hold fast to God’s word, come to a deeper understanding of its meaning, and apply it in our daily lives. Let us ask ourselves: am I truly open, like the Virgin Mary, to the power of the Holy Spirit? Even now, with the Father and the Son, the Spirit dwells in our hearts. Let us ask him to guide us into all truth and to help us grow in friendship with Christ through daily prayer, reading of the Scriptures and the celebration of the sacraments.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

* * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 General Audience catechesis, Wednesday, May 22, 2013.  (Year of Faith)

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

In the Creed, after having professed faith in the Holy Spirit, we say: "We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." There is a deep connection between these two realities of faith: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church, guides Her steps. Without the presence and the incessant action of the Holy Spirit, the Church could not live and could not accomplish the task that the Risen Jesus has entrusted her; to go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:18). Evangelization is the mission of the Church, not just of a few, but my, your, our mission. The Apostle Paul exclaimed: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). Everyone must be evangelizers, especially through with their life! Paul VI pointed out that "... evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize,"(Apostolic Exhortation. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

Who is the real engine of evangelization in our lives and in the Church? Paul VI wrote with clarity: "It is the Holy Spirit who, today just as at the beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by Him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the kingdom being proclaimed."(ibid., 75). To evangelize, then, we must be open to the action of the Spirit of God, without fear of what He asks us or where He leads us. Let us entrust ourselves to Him! He enables us to live and bear witness to our faith, and enlighten the hearts of those we meet. This was the Pentecost experience of the Apostles gathered with Mary in the Upper Room, " Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim"(Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles, compels them to leave the room in which they had locked themselves in fear, makes them come out of themselves, and turns them into heralds and witnesses of the "mighty works of God" (v. 11). And this transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit is reflected in the crowd that rushed to the scene and which came "from every nation under heaven" (v. 5), so that everyone hears the words of the Apostles as if they were spoken in their own language (v. 6 ).

Here is a first important effect of the Holy Spirit that guides and inspires the proclamation of the Gospel: unity, communion. At Babel, according to the Bible, the dispersion of peoples and the confusion of tongues began, the result of man’s act of arrogance and pride in wanting to build on his own strength, and without God, "a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven "(Gen 11:4). At Pentecost, these divisions are overcome. There is no longer more pride toward God, nor closure towards one another, but there is openness to God, to going out to announce His Word: a new language, that of love that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5), a language that everyone can understand and which, when welcomed, can be expressed in every life and in every culture. The language of the Spirit, the language of the Gospel is the language of communion, which invites us to overcome closure and indifference, division and conflict. We should all ask ourselves: how do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my witness of faith is one of unity and communion? Do I bring the message of reconciliation and love that is the Gospel to the places where I live? Sometimes it seems that what happened at Babel is repeated today; divisions, the inability to understand each other, rivalry, envy, selfishness. What do I do with my life? Do I bring unity? Or do I divide with gossip and envy? Let us ask ourselves this. Bringing the Gospel means we in the first place must live reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity, love that the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember the words of Jesus: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).

A second element: on the day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stands up "with the eleven" and "raided his voice" (Acts 2:14); "proclaimed" (v. 29) the good news of Jesus, who gave His life for our salvation and who God raised from the dead. Here is another effect of the Holy Spirit: Courage! the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, with self-confidence (parrhesia), in a loud voice, in every time and in every place. And this happens even today for the Church and for each of us: from the fire of Pentecost, from the action of the Holy Spirit, ever new missionary energies are released, new ways in which to proclaim the message of salvation, new courage to evangelize. Never be closed to this action! May we live the Gospel with humility and courage! May we witness the novelty, the hope, the joy that the Lord brings to life. Let us feel within us "the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing" (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation. Ap. Evangelii nuntiandi, 80) Because evangelizing, announcing Jesus, evangelizing brings us joy! It energizes us. Being closed up within ourselves brings bitterness. Proclaiming the joy and hope that the Lord brings to world lifts us up!

I will only mention a third element, but it is particularly important: a new evangelization, a Church that evangelizes must always start from prayer, from asking, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Only a faithful and intense relationship with God allows us to leave our enclosures and announce the Gospel with parrhesia. Without prayer our actions become empty and our proclamation soulless, it is not animated by the Spirit.

Dear friends, as said Benedict XVI, the Church today " especially feels the wind of the Holy Spirit that helps us, shows us the right path, and so, with new enthusiasm, we are on our journey and we thank the Lord" (Address to Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 27, 2012). Let us renew our trust in the Holy Spirit every day. The trust that He enacts in us, He is in us, He gives us courage, confidence and peace! Let us be guided by Him, men and women of prayer, witnessing the Gospel with courage, becoming instruments in our world of God’s unity and communion. 

Thank you. 

English summary:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we now pass from the article on the Holy Spirit to that on the Church, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. The Holy Spirit and the Church are in fact inseparable. The Spirit enlivens and guides the Church, and each of us within the Church, to carry out Christ’s mandate to make disciples of all peoples. He opens minds and hearts to the beauty and truth of the Gospel. The Spirit overcomes selfishness and division, creating unity, communion, reconciliation and love. The Spirit also instils the strength needed to bear courageous witness to the Risen Christ; he is the spirit of mission and evangelization. The fire of the Holy Spirit was sent down upon the Apostles at Pentecost in answer to their fervent prayer; ardent prayer in the Spirit must always be the soul of new evangelization and the heart of our lives as Christians. Let us renew each day our trust in the working of the Holy Spirit, open our hearts to his inspiration and gifts, and strive to be signs of unity and communion with God in the midst of our human family.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Church as the Family of God (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, May 29, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he began a new cycle of catecheses on the mystery of the Church.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday I underlined the deep bond between the Holy Spirit and the Church. Today I would like to start some catecheses on the mystery of the Church, a mystery that we all live in and of which we are part. I would like to do this with some well-known expressions of the texts of Vatican II.

First: the Church as the family of God.

In recent months, more than once I made reference to the parable of the prodigal son, or rather of the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32). His youngest son leaves his father's house, squanders everything and decides to return because he realizes that he has made a mistake, but no longer considers himself worthy of being a son, and thinks that he might be readmitted as a servant. The father instead runs to meet him, hugs him, restores him to the dignity of a son and throws a feast. This parable, as others in the Gospel, well describes God's plan for humanity.

What is this plan? It's to make of all of us the one family of his children, in which each will feel close and feel loved by Him, as in the Gospel parable, that each may feel the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its roots; the Church is not an organization born out of an agreement made by some people, but - as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us many times - it's God's work, it is born from this plan of love that takes place progressively in history. The Church was born from the desire of God to call all people to communion with Him, to His friendship, and indeed to participate as his sons of his own divine life. The very word "Church", from the Greek word ekklesia, means "convocation": God summons us, he urges us to come out of our individualism, of our tendency to close in upon ourselves and calls us to be his family. And this call has its origin in creation itself. God created us to live in a deep friendship with him, and even when sin broke this relationship with him, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us. The whole history of salvation is the story of God seeking man, offering him His love, welcoming him. He called Abraham to be the father of a multitude, he chose the people of Israel to forge a covenant that embraces all people, and sent, in the fullness of time, his Son so that his plan of love and salvation might come true in a new and everlasting covenant with all humanity. When we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus gathers around him a small community that welcomes his word, follows him, shares his journey, becomes his family, and with this community He prepares and builds his Church.

Where is the Church born? It is born from the supreme act of love of the cross, from the open side of Jesus from which flow blood and water, symbol of the sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism. In the family of God, in the Church, the lifeblood is the love of God that is expressed in loving Him and others, all without distinctions and without measure. The Church is a family in which one loves and is loved.

When does the Church become manifest? We celebrated this two Sundays ago: it is manifested when the indwelling of the Holy Spirit fills the heart of the Apostles and drives them to go out and start the journey to proclaim the Gospel, to spread the love of God.

Still today someone says: "Christ yes, the Church no." Like those who say, “I believe in God but not in priests”. But it is precisely the Church that brings us Christ and leads us to God; the Church is the great family of God's children. Of course it also has human aspects; in those who compose it, pastors and faithful, there are flaws, imperfections, sins, even the Pope has them, and he has many, but the beautiful thing is that when we realize that we are sinners, we find the mercy of God, which always forgives. Don’t forget it: God always forgives and receives us in his forgiving and merciful love. Some say sin is an offence against God, but it is also an opportunity to be humbled, to realize that there’s something more beautiful: the mercy of God. Let us think of this.

Let us ask ourselves today: how much do I love the Church? Do I pray for her? Do I feel part of the family of the Church? What do I do so that it may be a community where everyone feels welcomed and understood, feels the mercy and love of God that renews life? Faith is a gift and an act that affects us personally, but God calls us to live our faith together, as a family, like the Church.

Let us ask the Lord, in a special way in this Year of Faith that our communities, the whole Church, may increasingly be true families living and bearing within them the warmth of God. Thank you.

 

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In today’s Audience I would like to speak of the Church as God’s family. Like the merciful father in the parable of the prodigal son, God wants all of us to live in his love and to share in his life. The Church is an essential part of this divine plan; we were made to know and love God and, despite our sins, he continues to call us to return to him. In the fullness of time, he sent his Son into our world to inaugurate the new and eternal covenant with humanity through his sacrifice on the cross. The Church was born of this supreme act of reconciling love, in the water and blood which flowed from Christ’s pierced side. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit sent the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel of God’s love to the ends of the earth. Christ can never be separated from his Church, which he has made the great family of God’s children. Today, let us pledge ourselves to renewing our love for the Church and to letting her be God’s true family, where everyone feels welcomed, understood and loved.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the People of God

VATICAN CITY, June 12, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address during his weekly General Audience held in St. Peter’s Square today.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to briefly highlight another term with which the Second Vatican Council has defined the Church, as "the People of God " (cf. Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, 9; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 782). And I do so with some questions, on which everyone can reflect.

1. What does it mean to be "People of God"? Firstly it means that God does not belong specifically to any people; because it is He who calls us, summons us, invites us to be part of his people, and this call is addressed to us all, without distinction, because God's mercy «wants salvation for everyone» (1Tm 2,4).. Jesus does not say to the Apostles and to us to form an exclusive group, an elite. Jesus says: go and make disciples of all Nations (cf. Mt 28,19). Saint Paul states that in the people of God, in the Church, "there is no longer Jew nor Greek ... since you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3,28). I would also say to those who feel far away from God and the Church, the one who is fearful or indifferent, who thinks he can no longer change: the Lord calls you to join his people and does so with great respect and love!

2. How does one become a member of this people? It is not through physical birth, but through a new birth. In the Gospel, Jesus says to Nicodemus that one must be born from above, out of the water and the spirit to enter into the Kingdom of God (cf. Jn 3:3-5). It is through Baptism that we are introduced to this people, through faith in Christ, a gift from God that must be nurtured and grown throughout our life. Let us ask ourselves: How can I grow the faith that I received in my Baptism?

3. What is the law of God's People? It is the law of love, love for God and love for your neighbor according to the new commandment which the Lord has left us (cf. Jn 13:34). A love, however, that is not sterile sentimentalism or something vague, but that which recognizes God as the only Lord of life and, at the same time, receives one’s neighbor as a true brother, overcoming divisions, rivalries, misunderstandings, selfishness; both things go together. How much we still have to do in order to live this new law concretely, that of the Holy Spirit who acts in us, that of charity, of love! When we look in the newspapers or on television, there are so many wars between Christians: but how can this happen? In the people of God, how many wars! In the neighborhoods, in the workplace, how many wars out of envy, jealousy! Even in the family itself, how many internal wars! We must ask the Lord to make us understand this law of love. How beautiful it is to love each other as true brothers. How beautiful! Let's do one thing today. Maybe we all have people we like and others we dislike; maybe many of us are a little angry with someone; then, say to the Lord: Lord, I am upset with this person or that. I will pray for him and for her. Praying for those with whom we are angry is a good step in this law of love. Do we do it? Let's do it today!

4. What is the mission of the People of God? To bring into the world the hope and salvation of God: to be a sign of God's love which calls everyone to have a friendship with him; to be the yeast that leavens the dough, salt that gives flavor and protects from corruption, light that illuminates. All around us, just by opening a newspaper – as I said- we can see that the presence of evil is there, the Devil acts. But I would like to say out loud: God is stronger! And I would like to add that the sometimes dark reality, marked by evil, can change, if we first bring the light of the Gospel, above all with our lives. If in a stadium, think of here in Rome at the Olympic Stadium, on a dark night, one person turns on a light, you can just barely see it, but if more than 70,000 spectators each turns on his own light, the stadium lights up. Let's make our life a light of Christ; together we will bring the light of the Gospel into the entire reality.

5. What is the end of this people? Their end is the Kingdom of God, begun here on Earth by God himself, and that must be extended until its completion, when Christ will appear (cf. Lumen gentium, 9). The aim then is full communion with the Lord, to enter into his own divine life, where we will live the joy of his love without measure.

Dear brothers and sisters, to be Church, to be God's People, according to the great design of the Father's love, it's like being the leaven of God in our humanity, it means announcing and bringing the salvation of God into this world of ours, which is often lost, in need of answers that encourage, that give hope, that provide new vigor in the journey. May the Church be both a place of God's mercy and hope, where everyone can feel welcome, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And to make the other feel welcome, loved, forgiven, encouraged, the –Church must have its doors open so that everyone can enter. And we must go out through those doors to announce the Gospel.

 

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, today we consider the Church as the People of God, called to new life in Christ. We become part of this people through God’s gift of faith and spiritual rebirth in the waters of Baptism. Our law is the twin commandment of love for God and neighbour. Our mission is to be a leaven of the hope born of God’s love in our world wounded by sin and evil. Amid the darkness that so frequently surrounds us, we are called to be so many points of light, illumining all reality and showing the way to a better future. God’s goodness is stronger than any evil! Our destination is the Kingdom of God which Christ inaugurated on earth and which will attain its fullness in the joy of heaven. This is what it means for the Church to be God’s People, an essential part of his loving plan for our human family. May the Church always be a place where everyone can encounter God’s mercy and feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Holy Father’s General Audience, Wednesday, June 19, 2013  

Unity in the Body of Christ  

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

Today I will focus upon another expression with which the Second Vatican Council indicates the nature of the Church: that of the body, the Council says that the Church is the Body of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 7).

I would like to start from a text of the Acts of the Apostles which we know well: the conversion of Saul, who will then be called Paul, one of the greatest evangelists (cf. Acts 9:4-5). Saul was a persecutor of Christians, but while he is on the road leading to the city of Damascus, suddenly a light envelops him, he falls to the ground and hears a voice saying "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? '. He asks: "Who are you, Lord?", And the voice answers: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" (v. 3-5). This experience of St. Paul tells us how deep the union between we Christians and Christ Himself. When Jesus ascended into heaven he did not leave us orphans, but with the gift of the Holy Spirit, our union with Him has become even more intense. The Second Vatican Council says that Jesus " communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body" (Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen Gentium, 7).

The image of the body helps us to understand this deep Church-Christ bond, which St. Paul has developed especially in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. chap. 12). First, the body brings our attention to a living reality. The Church is not an charitable, cultural or political association, but a living body, that walks and acts in history. And this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, feeds and supports it. This is a point I want to emphasize: if the head is separated from the rest of the body, the whole person cannot survive. So it is in the Church, we must remain bound ever more deeply to Jesus. But not only that: just as the body needs the lifeblood to keep it alive, so we must allow Jesus to work in us, that His Word guide us, that His presence in the Eucharist nourish us, animate us, that His love gives strength to our love of neighbor. And this always! Dear brothers and sisters, let us remain united to Jesus, let us trust in Him, direct our life according to His Gospel, nourish ourselves with daily prayer, listening to the Word of God, participation in the Sacraments. 

And here I come to a second aspect of the Church as the Body of Christ. St Paul says that as members of the human body, although different and many, we form one body, as we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13). In the Church, therefore, there is a variety, a diversity of tasks and functions, there is no dull uniformity, but the richness of the gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes. But there is communion and unity: we are all in a relation to each other and we all come together to form one living body, deeply connected to Christ. Let us remember this well: being part of the Church means being united to Christ and receiving from Him the divine life that makes us live as Christians; it means remaining united to the Pope and the Bishops who are instruments of unity and communion, and also means overcoming personal interests and divisions, in order to understand each other better, to harmonize the variety and richness of each member; in a word, to love God and the people who are next to us more, in the family, in the parish, in the associations. In order to live a Body and its limbs must be united! Unity is beyond all conflict. Always! Conflicts, when they don’t end well, separate us from each other, they separate us from God. Conflict can help us to grow but can also divide us. We must not travel the path of division, of conflict among us, no we must all be united – with our differences – but united because that is the path of Jesus!

Unity is beyond all conflict. Unity is a grace that we must ask of the Lord so he may save us from the temptations of the division, from internal struggles and selfishness, from gossip. How much damage gossip does! How much damage! Never gossip about others, never!. How much damage divisions among Christians, being partisan, narrow interests causes to the Church,! Divisions among us, but also divisions among the communities: evangelical Christians, orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, but why divided? We must try to bring about unity. Let me tell you something, today, before leaving home, I spent 40 minutes more or less, half an hour, with an evangelical pastor. And we prayed together, seeking unity. But we Catholics must pray with each other and other Christians. Pray that the Lord gift us unity! Unity among ourselves! How will we ever have unity among Christians if we are not capable of having it among us Catholics,...in the family, how many families fight and split up? Seek unity, unity builds the Church and comes from Jesus Christ. He sends us the Holy Spirit to build unity!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask God to help us to be members of the Body of the Church always deeply united to Christ, help us not to hurt the Body of the Church with our conflicts, our divisions, selfishness: help us to be living members bound to each other by a single power, that of love, which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5).

Below the English language summary

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, today we consider the Church as the Body of Christ. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, received in Baptism, we are mystically united to the Lord as members of one body, of which he is the head. The image of the mystical body makes us realize the importance of strengthening our union with Christ through daily prayer, the study of God’s word and participation in the sacraments. Saint Paul tells the Corinthians that the Body of Christ, while one, is made up of a variety of members. Within the communion of the Church, and in union with the Pope and Bishops, each of us has a part to play, a gift to share, a service to offer, for building up the Body of Christ in love. Let us ask the Lord to help us reject every form of divisiveness and conflict in our families, parishes and local Churches. At the same time, let us ask for the grace to open our hearts to others, to promote unity and to live in harmony as members of the one Body of Christ, inspired by the gift of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts.

--------------------------------------------------

 

On The Church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit  (General Audience, Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, June 26, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square today.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning! Today I would like briefly mention another image that helps us to illustrate the mystery of the Church: that of the temple (cf. Second Vat. Ecum. Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 6).

What does the word Temple make us think of? It makes us think of a building, a construction.

Specifically, many people's minds go immediately to the story of the People of Israel narrated in the Old Testament. In Jerusalem, the great Temple of Solomon was the site of the encounter with God in prayer; inside the temple there was the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of the presence of God in the midst of the people; and in the Ark were the Tables of the Law, the manna and the rod of Aaron: a reminder of the fact that God was always present in the history of his people, he had accompanied them on their journey, he had guided their steps. The temple calls to mind this history: we too, when we go to the temple [church] must remember this story, each one of us his own history, how Jesus found me, how Jesus has walked with me, how Jesus loves me and blesses me.

Here, what was foreshadowed in the old Temple, is fufilled by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Church: the Church is the "House of God", the place of his presence, where we can find and meet the Lord; the Church is the Temple where the Holy Spirit dwells, who animates, guides and sustains it. If we ask ourselves: where can we meet God? Where we can enter into communion with him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the holy spirit that lights up our lives? The answer is: in the People of God, among us, who are the Church. Here we will find Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father.

The ancient temple was built by the hands of men: they wanted to "give a house" to God, to have a visible sign of his presence in the midst of the people. With the incarnation of the Son of God, Nathan's prophecy to King David is fulfilled (cf. 2 Sam 7:1-29): it is not the king, nor are we the ones who "give a house to God", but it is God himself who "builds his house" to come to live in our midst, as St. John writes in the prologue of his Gospel (cf. 1:14). Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds his "spiritual home", the Church, made not of physical stones but of "living stones", which are us. The Apostle Paul says to the Christians of Ephesus: "You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also come built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God” (Eph 2:20-22). How beautiful this is! We are the living stones of God's building, deeply united to Christ, who is the cornerstone, and is also a keystone among us. What does this mean? It means that we are the temple, we are the living Church, the living temple and when we are together the Holy Spirit, too, is present, who helps us to grow as Church. We are therefore not isolated, but we are the People of God: this is the Church!

And it is the Holy Spirit with his gifts, who designs this variety, the richness in the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, where we offer not sacrifices, but ourselves, our lives (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5). The Church is not an interweaving of things and interests, but is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple where God works, the temple where each of us with the gift of baptism is a living stone. This tells us that no one is useless in the Church, and if someone occasionally says to another: “Go home, you’re useless”, this is not true, because no one is useless in the Church, we are all necessary to build this Temple! No one is secondary. No one is the most important in the Church; we are all equal in God’s eyes. Someone among you could say: “Listen, Mr. Pope, you’re not equal to us”. Yes, I am like each one of you, we are equal, we are brothers! Nobody is anonymous: we all form and build the Church. This also invites us to reflect on the fact that if the brick of our Christian life is lacking, something is missing from the beauty of the Church. Some say, “I have nothing to do with the Church”, but in this way, the brick of one life is missing from this beautiful Temple. No one can leave, we must all bring to the Church our life, our heart, our love, our thought, our work: all of us together.

I would like then for us to ask ourselves: how can we live our being Church? Are we living stones or are we, so to speak, tired, bored, indifferent stones? Have you seen how unattractive it is to see a tired, bored, indifferent Christian? A Christian of this kind is no good, a Christian must be alive, joyful about being Christian; he must live this beauty of being part of the People of God which is the Church. Do we open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit to be an active part in our community, or do we close in on ourselves, saying: "I have so many things to do, it's not my job"?

May the Lord give us his grace, his strength, so that we may be deeply united to Christ, the cornerstone, the keystone of our lives and the whole life of the Church. Let us pray that, animated by his spirit, we may always be living stones of his Church.

 

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, today we consider the Church as God’s temple. The great temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, a place of prayer and encounter with the Lord, was a prefigurement of the Church. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son who dwelt among us, is himself the definitive and living temple where we encounter God’s presence in our midst. Christ makes us, the members of his mystical body, "living stones" for the construction of a "holy temple in the Lord" (Eph 2:21), in which we exercise our baptismal priesthood by offering spiritual sacrifices. The Holy Spirit, in the variety of his gifts, unites us and enables us to contribute to the building up of the Church in holiness. In this great work, each of us has a part to play; each of us, as a "living stone", is needed for the growth and the beauty of God’s holy temple. Let us ask the Lord to help us to take an ever more active part in the Church’s life and mission, guided by the Holy Spirit and with Jesus as our cornerstone.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Church as a Mother

VATICAN CITY, September 11, 2013  - This morning’s General Audience took place at 10:30 in Saint Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and all parts of the world.

In his address in Italian, the Pope continued with the series of catecheses on the mystery of the Church, focusing his meditation on the theme: “The Church, Mother of Christians.”

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We take up again today the catechesis on the Church in this “Year of Faith.” Among the imagers that Vatican Council II selected to make us understand better the nature of the Church, is that of “Mother”: the Church is our Mother in the faith, in the supernatural life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 6.14.15.41.42). It is one of the images most used by the Fathers of the Church in the first centuries and I think it can be useful also for us. For me it is one of the most beautiful images of the Church: the Mother Church! In what sense and in what way is the Church Mother? We begin with the human reality of maternity: what does a mother do?

First of all, a mother generates life; she bears her child in her womb for nine months and then opens him/her to life, generating him/her. The Church is like this: she generates us in the faith, through the work of the Holy Spirit that renders her fecund, as the Virgin Mary. Both the Church and the Virgin Mary are mothers; what is said of the Church can also be said of Our Lady and what is said of Our Lady can also be said of the Church! Faith is, certainly, a personal act: “I believe,” I personally respond to God who makes Himself known and who wishes to enter into friendship with me (cf. Encyclical Lumen fidei, n. 39). But I receive the faith from others, in a family, in a community that teaches me to say “I believe,” “we believe.” A Christian isn’t an island! We do not become Christians in a laboratory, we do not become Christians on our own and with our own strength; faith is a present, a gift of God that is given us in the Church and through the Church. And the Church gives us the life of faith in Baptism: that is the moment in which we are born as children of God, the moment in which we are given the life of God, she generates us as Mother. If you go to the Baptistery of Saint John Lateran, to the Pope’s cathedral, there is inside a Latin inscription which says more or less this: “Here a people is born of divine stock, generated by the Holy Spirit that fertilizes these waters; Mother Church gives birth to her children in these waves.” This makes us understand an important thing: our forming part of the Church is not an external or formal event, it isn’t to draw up a paper that we are given, but it is an interior and vital act; one does not belong to the Church as one does to a society, to a party or any other organization. The bond is vital, as that which one has with one’s mother, because, as Saint Augustine affirms, “the Church is really Mother of Christians” (De moribus Ecclesiae, I, 30, 62-63; PL 32, 1336). Let us ask ourselves: how do I see the Church? If I am grateful to my parents because they gave me life, am I grateful to the Church because she has generated me in the faith through Baptism? Some raise their hands, but how many don’t remember! But the date of Baptism is the date of our birth to the Church, the date in which our Mother the Church has given us birth! And now I leave you with a task to do at home. When you go back home today, go and look well for the date of your Baptism, to celebrate it, to thank the Lord for this gift. Will you do this? Do we love the Church as we love our own mother, knowing and also understanding her defects? All mothers have defects, we all have defects, but when there is talk of our mother’s defects we cover them, we love her so. And the Church also has her defects: do we love her as we do our mother; do we help to make her more beautiful, more authentic, more according to the Lord? I leave you with these questions, but don’t forget the tasks: look for the date of your Baptism to have it in your heart and to celebrate it.

A mother doesn’t limit herself to give life, but with great care she helps her children to grow, she gives them milk, nourishes them, teaches them the way of life, always accompanies them with her attentions, with her affection, with her love, also when they are grown up. And in this she also knows how to correct, to forgive, to understand; she knows how to be close in sickness, in suffering. In a word, a good mother helps her children to come out of themselves, not to remain comfortably under the maternal wings, as a brood of chicks under the wings of a hen. The Church, as a good Mother, does the same thing: she accompanies our growing up by transmitting the Word of God, which is a light that indicates the way of the Christian life, administering the Sacraments. She nourishes us with the Eucharist, she gives us God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, she supports us in the moment of sickness with the Anointing of the Sick. The Church accompanies us in our whole life of faith, in our whole Christian life. We can now ask ourselves other questions: what relation do I have with the Church? Do I see her as a Mother that helps me grow as a Christian? Do I take part in the life of the Church, do I feel a part of her? Is my relation formal or vital?

A third brief thought. In the first centuries of the Church, a reality was very clear: while the Church is Mother of Christians, while she “makes” Christians, she is also “made” by them. The Church isn’t something different from ourselves, but is seen as the totality of believers, as the “us” of Christians: I, you, all of us are part of the Church. Saint Jerome wrote: “The Church of Christ is nothing other than the souls of those who believe in Christ” (Tract. Ps 86: PL 26, 1084). So, all of us, pastors and faithful, live the maternity of the Church. Sometimes I hear: “I believe in God but not in the Church … I have heard that the Church says … the priests say …” The priests are one thing, but the Church is not made up of priests only, all of us are the Church! And if you say that you believe in God and do not believe in the Church, you are saying that you don’t believe in yourself, and this is a contradiction. All of us are the Church: from the recently baptized baby to the Bishops, the Pope; we are all the Church and we are all equal in the eyes of God! We are all called to collaborate in the birth of faith of new Christians; we are all called to be educators in the faith, to proclaim the Gospel. Each one of us must ask him/herself: what do I do so that others can share the Christian faith? Am I fruitful in my faith or closed? When I say that I love a Church that isn’t shut in in her enclosure, but is able to go out, to move, even with some risks, to bring Christ to all, I think of all, of myself, of you, of every Christian. We all participate in the Church’s maternity, so that the light of Christ reaches the ends of the earth. Long live Holy Mother Church!

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: today I wish to continue our catechesis on the Church by reflecting on an image used by the early Fathers and the Second Vatican Council: the Church as our Mother. By reflecting on the human experience of maternity, we understand that the Church is like our own Mothers. First, like our Mothers, the Church gives us the gift of life. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are reborn as children of God and receive his life. While faith is a personal act, we also recognize that faith comes to us through others – our families and communities who teach us how to believe. Second, like our Mothers, the Church nourishes us, helps us to grow, teaches us the path to follow, and accompanies us in life, especially in our illnesses and sufferings, through the Sacraments and the Word of God. Third, it is also our mission to go forth and share in the maternity of the Church by bringing others to a life of faith. And so we ask ourselves, do we love the Church as our Mother, who helps us to grow as Christians? And how do we go beyond ourselves in order to bring Christ to others? As faithful children, let us bring the light of Christ to the ends of the earth.

---------------------------------------------------------

On the Church as Merciful Mother

VATICAN CITY, September 18, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience today at St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I return again to the image of the Church as Mother. I like this image very much, because it seems to me it tells us not only how the Church is, but also what face the Church should always have, this our Church.

I would like to stress three things, always looking at our mothers, to all that they do, that they live, that they suffer for their children, continuing with what I said last Wednesday. What does a mother do?

She teaches how to walk in life, she teaches how to do well in life, she knows how to direct her children, she seeks always to indicate the right way in life to grow and become adults. And she does so with tenderness, with affection, with love, always, even when she tries to correct our way because we skid a bit in life or take paths that lead to a ravine. A mother knows what’s important for a child to walk well in life, and she didn’t learn it from books, but learned it from her heart.

The Church does the same thing: she orientates our life; she gives us teachings to walk well. We think of the Ten Commandments: they indicate a path to take to mature, to have firm points in our way of behaving. And they are the fruit of the tenderness, of the love itself of God, which He has given her. You can say to me: but they are commands! They are a whole “no”! I would like to invite you to read them – perhaps you have forgotten them somewhat – and then to think of them positively. You’ll see that they have to do with our way of behaving toward God, towards ourselves and towards others, in fact <they are> what a mother teaches us to live well. They invite us not to make material idols for ourselves, which then render us slaves; to remember God; to have respect for our parents; to be honest; to respect the other … Try to see them this way and to consider them as if they were the words, the teachings that a mother gives to walk well in life. A mother never teaches what is evil; she wishes only the good of her children, and the Church does the same.

2. I would like to say a second thing to you: when a child grows, becomes an adult, takes up his way, assumes his responsibilities, walks with his own legs, does what he wishes and, sometimes, also happens to stray from the path, some incident happens. A mother always, in every situation, has the patience to continue to support her children. What drives her is the force of love. A mother knows how to follow the path of her children with discretion, with tenderness and also when they are mistaken she always finds the way to understand, to be close, to help. We say that a mother knows how to “dar la cara” [stick up for] “metterci la faccia” [stand up for] for her children, that is, she is driven to defend them always. I think of mothers who suffer for their children in prison or in difficult situations: they don’t ask if they are guilty or not; they continue to love them and often endure humiliations, but they’re not afraid, they don’t stop giving themselves.

The Church is like this, she is a merciful Mother that understands, that always tries to help, to encourage even in face of her children who have been mistaken and are mistaken; she never closes the door of the home; she doesn’t judge, but offers God’s forgiveness; she offers her love which invites to take up the way again even to those children who have fallen into a profound abyss; she is not afraid to enter into their night to give hope.

One last thought. A mother also knows how to ask, to knock on every door for her children, without calculation, with love. And I think of how mothers know how to knock also and above all on the door of God’s heart! Mothers pray so much for their children, especially for those who are weakest, for those who have greater need, for those who in life have taken dangerous and mistaken paths. A short time ago I celebrated <Mass>in the church of Saint Augustine, here in Rome, where the relics of his mother, Saint Monica, are kept. How many prayers that holy mother raised to God for her son, and how many tears she shed! I think of you, dear mothers: how much you pray for your children, without getting tired. Continue to pray, to entrust your children to God; He has a great heart!

But the Church also does the same: with prayer, she places in the Lord’s hands all the situations of her children. Let us have confidence in the strength of the prayer of Mother Church: the Lord doesn’t remain insensible. He always knows how to astonish us was when we least expect it. Mother Church knows this!

There, these were the thoughts that I wanted to tell you today: we see in the Church a good Mother that points out to us the way to go in life, who knows always how to be patient, merciful, understanding and who knows how to place us in God’s hands

--- --- ---

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: today I wish to return to the image of the Church as our Mother, by reflecting on all that our earthly mothers do, live and suffer for their children. First, our mothers show us, through their tenderness and love, the correct path to follow in life, so that we may grow into adulthood. So too the Church orients us on the path of life, indicating the way that leads to maturity. Second, our mothers know how and when to accompany us with understanding through life and to help lead us back when we wander off the right path. The Church also accompanies us in mercy, in understanding, never judging us or closing the door, but offering forgiveness to help us return to the right course. Third, as our mothers never grow tired of interceding for us, no matter our failings, so too the Church stays with us always and, through prayer, puts into the hands of the Lord all our situations, difficulties and needs. And so we see in the Church a good Mother who indicates the path to walk in life, who always accompanies us in patience, mercy and understanding, and who places us in God’s hands.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

General Audience: on the Unity of the Church

VATICAN CITY, September 25, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address during his weekly General Audience today held in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the “Creed” we say “I believe in One …  Church,” that is, we profess that the Church is one and this Church is, in herself, unity. However, if we look at the Catholic Church in the world we discover that she has almost 3,000 dioceses scattered in all the Continents: so many languages, so many cultures! Yet the thousands of Catholic communities form a unity. How can this be?

We find a synthetic answer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: the Catholic Church spread around the world “has only one faith, only one sacramental life, only one apostolic succession, one common hope, the same charity” (n. 161). Unity in faith, in hope, in charity, unity in the Sacraments, in the Ministry: they are as pillars that support and hold together the one great edifice of the Church. Wherever we go, even in the smallest parish, in the most isolated corner of this earth, there is the one Church; we are at home, we are in the family, we are among brothers and sisters. And this is a great gift of God! The Church is one for all. There isn’t a Church for Europeans, one for Africans, one for Americans, one for Asians, one for those who live in Oceania, but it’s the same one everywhere. It is as happens in a family: one can be far away, scattered around the world, but the profound bonds that unite all the members remain firm no matter what the distance is. I am thinking of the experience of the World Youth Day at Rio de Janeiro: in that immense multitude of young people on the beach of Copacabana, so many languages were heard, very different facial features were seen among them, different cultures met, yet there was a profound unity, one only Church was formed, there was unity and it was felt. Let’s all ask ourselves: do I feel this unity? Do I live this unity? Or don’t I care because I’m closed in in my small group or in myself? Am I one of those who “privatize” the Church for my own group, my own nation, my own friends? When I hear that so many Christians in the world are suffering, am I indifferent or is it as if someone of my family were suffering? Do we pray for one another? It’s important to look beyond one’s own enclosure, to feel oneself Church, the one family of God!

2. We take another step and ask ourselves: are there wounds to this unity? Can we wound this unity? Unfortunately, we see that in the course of history, also now, we don’t always live unity. Sometimes misunderstandings, conflicts, tensions, divisions arise that wound, and then the Church doesn’t have the face we would like, she doesn’t manifest charity. What God wants. We are the ones who create lacerations! And if we look at the divisions that there still are among Christians, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants … we feel the labor of rendering this unity fully visible. God gives us unity, but we often find it hard to live it. We must seek, build communion, and educate ourselves to communion, to surmount misunderstandings and divisions, beginning with the family, with the ecclesial realities, in the ecumenical dialogue. Our world is in need of unity, of reconciliation, of communion and the Church is the House of communion. Saint Paul said to the Christians of Ephesus: “I therefore, prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1-3). Humility, gentleness, magnanimity, love to preserve unity! And he continued: There is one body, that of Christ which we receive in the Eucharist; one Spirit, the Holy Spirit that animates and constantly recreates the Church; one hope, eternal life; one faith, one Baptism, one God, Father of us all (cf. vv. 4-6). The richness of what unites us! Each one should ask himself today: do I make unity grow in the family, in the parish, in the community or am I a motive of division, of hardship? Do I have the humility to heal with patience, with sacrifice, the wounds to communion?

3.Finally, the last step in greater profoundness: who is the motor of this unity of the Church? It is the Holy Spirit. Our unity is not primarily the fruit of our consensus, of our effort to be in agreement, but it comes from Him who makes unity in diversity, which is harmony. Because of this, prayer is important, which is the soul of our commitment as men and women of communion, of unity.

Let us pray to the Lord: enable us to be ever more united, to never be instruments of division; make us be committed -- as a beautiful Franciscan prayer says --, to bring love where there is hatred, to bring forgiveness where there is offense, to bring union where there is discord.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess that the Church is “one”. When we consider the rich diversity of languages, cultures and peoples present in the Church throughout the world, we realize that this unity is a God-given gift, grounded in our common Baptism and our sharing in the Church’s one faith and sacramental life. Like a great family, we are united to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever they may be. We might ask ourselves how much we appreciate and express in our daily lives, and particularly in our prayer, this reality of our unity and solidarity in the communion of the Church. The world needs our witness to God’s plan for the unity, reconciliation and peace of the whole human family. Let us ask the Lord to enable us, and Christians everywhere, to work to overcome our tensions and divisions, to strive, as Saint Paul bids us, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (cf.Eph 4:3), and to cherish the harmony which the same Spirit creates from the richness of our diversity.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

General Audience:  On the Holiness of the Church

VATICAN CITY, October 02, 2013 - Here is the text of the Holy Father's catechesis on the Creed during his weekly General Audience today at St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning

In the “Creed,” after having professed: “I believe in one Church,” we add the adjective “Holy”; that is, we affirm the sanctity of the Church, and this is a characteristic that has been present since the beginning in the consciousness of the first Christians, who called themselves simply “the saints” (cf. Acts 9:13.32.41; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 6:1), because they had the certainty that it is the action of God, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Church.

However, in what sense is the Church Holy if we see that the historical Church, in her long journey through the centuries, has had so many difficulties, problems, dark moments? How can a Church be Holy which is made up of human beings, of sinners? Sinful men, sinful women, sinful priests, sinful Sisters, sinful Bishops, sinful Cardinals, sinful Pope -- all are so. How can such a Church be Holy?

To answer the question I would like to be guided by a passage of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Christians of Ephesus. Taking as examples family relations, the Apostle states that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her” (5:25-26). Christ loved the Church giving himself wholly on the cross. And this means that the Church is Holy because she comes from God who is Holy, who is faithful to her and does not abandon her to the power of death and evil (cf. Matthew 16:18). She is Holy because Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (cf. Mark 1:24), is indissolubly united to her (cf. Matthew 28:20); she is Holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms and renews her. She is not Holy because of our merits, but because God renders her Holy, the fruit of the Holy Spirit and of his gifts. It is not we who make her holy. It is God in His love that makes her Holy.

You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see it every day. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to allow ourselves to be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation of some who affirmed: the Church is only the Church of the pure, of those who are totally coherent, and the others are estranged. This isn’t true. This is a heresy. No! The Church, which is Holy, does not reject sinners; on the contrary, she receives them, is open also to those who are most distant, she calls all to allow themselves to be enveloped by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers all the possibility of encountering him, of walking towards sanctity. “But, Father, I am a sinner, I have grave sins, how can I feel part of the Church?” Dear brother, dear sister, it is precisely this that the Lord desires; that you say to him: “Lord, I am here, with my sins! Forgive me, help me to walk, transform my heart!” The God we encounter in the Church isn’t a merciless judge, but He is like the Father of the evangelical parable. You can be as the son who left home, who touched the depth of estrangement from God. When you have the strength to say: I want to go back home, you will find the door open. God comes to meet you because He always waits for you, he embraces you, He kisses you and celebrates. The Lord wants us part of a Church that is able to open her arms to welcome all, which is not the house of a few, but the house of all, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by His love, the strongest and the weakest, the sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged and lost. The Church offers all the possibility of following the way of sanctity, which is the way of the Christian. She makes us encounter Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, especially in Confession and in the Eucharist; she communicates to us the Word of God, she makes us live in charity, in the love of God towards all. So we ask ourselves: do we allow ourselves to be sanctified? Are we a Church that calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope or are we a Church that is shut in on herself? Are we a Church in which the love of God is lived, in which there is care for the other, in which we pray for one another?

A final question: what can I do, who feel weak, fragile, sinful? God says to you: do not be afraid  of sanctity, do not be afraid to aim high, to allow yourself to be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us allow ourselves to be infected by God’s holiness. Every Christian is called to sanctity (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 39-42); and sanctity does not consist first of all in doing extraordinary things, but in letting God act. It is the encounter of our weakness with the strength of His grace, it is to trust in His action that enables us to live in charity, to do everything with joy and humility, for the glory of God and in the service of our neighbor. There is a famous phrase of the French writer Leon Bloy, who in the last moments of his life said: “There is only one sadness in life, that of not being saints.” Let us not lose hope in sanctity, let us all follow this way. Do we want to be saints? All? The Lord awaits all with open arms. Let us live our faith with joy, let us allow ourselves to be loved by the  Lord … let us ask for this gift of God in prayer, for ourselves and for others.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess our faith that the Church is “holy”.  But how can we say that the Church is holy when she is all too evidently made up of sinners?  Saint Paul helps us to see things aright when he tells us that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy” (Eph 5:25-26).  The Church is inseparably one with Christ, and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  It is not ourselves, or our merits, which make the Church holy, but God himself, through the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.  God calls all of us, as sinners, to be redeemed, renewed and made holy in the communion of the Church.  So the Church constantly welcomes everyone, even the greatest sinners, to trust in God’s offer of loving mercy, and to encounter Christ in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.  Let us not be afraid to respond to Christ’s call, to trust in the working of the Holy Spirit and to pray and strive for that holiness which brings true joy to our lives.

-------------------------------------------------------

On the Catholicity of the Church

VATICAN CITY, October 09, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Creed during his weekly General Audience today in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

“I believe in One, Holy, Catholic Church …” Today we pause to reflect on this Note of the Church: her catholicity. What does Catholic mean? It comes from the Greek “kath’olon,” which means “according to all,” the totality. In what sense is this totality applied to the Church? In what sense do we say that the Church is Catholic? I would say in three significant fundamentals.

1. The first. The Church is Catholic because it is the area, the house in which the whole faith is proclaimed, in which the salvation Christ brought us is offered to all. The Church makes us encounter God’s mercy which transforms us, because Jesus Christ is present in it, who gives it the true confession of faith, the fullness of the sacramental life, the authenticity of the ordained ministry. Each one of us finds in the Church what is necessary to believe, to live as Christians, to become holy, to walk in every place and in every time.

To give an example, we can say that it is as in the life of a family. In the family, each one of us is given all that enables us to grow, to mature, to live. We cannot grow on our own, we cannot walk on our own, isolating ourselves, but we walk and grow in a community, in a family. We can listen to the Word of God in the Church, certain that it is the message that the Lord has given us. In the Church we can encounter the Lord in the Sacraments, which are open windows through which we are given the light of God, streams from which we draw the very life of God. In the Church we learn to live in communion, in the love that comes from God. Each one of us can ask him/herself today: how do I live in the Church? How do I receive the gifts she offers me, to grow, to mature as a Christian? Do I take part in community life or do a shut myself in my problems?

2. A second meaning: the Church is Catholic because she is universal; she is spread throughout the world and proclaims the Gospel to every man and every woman. The Church isn’t an elite group; she is not concerned only with a few. The Church is not closed; she is sent to the totality of persons and of the human race. And the one Church is present also in her smallest parts. Everyone can say: the Catholic Church is present in my parish, because the latter is part of the universal Church, it is also the fullness of the gifts of Christ, faith, the Sacraments, the ministry. It is in communion with the Bishop, with the Pope and is open to all, without distinctions. The Church isn’t only the shadow of our bell tower, but embraces a vastness of people, of peoples who profess the same faith, who are nourished by the same Eucharist, who are served by the same Pastors. We feel in communion with all the Churches, with all the small and large Catholic communities of the world! And then we feel that we are all on mission, small and large communities, we must all open our doors and go out for the Gospel. Let us ask ourselves: what do I do to communicate to others the joy of encountering the Lord, the joy of belonging to the Church? To proclaim and witness the faith is not the concern of a few, it also concerns me, you, each one of us!

3. A third and last thought: the Church is Catholic because it is the “House of harmony” where unity and diversity are able to be combined to be a richness. We think of the image of a symphony, which means accord and harmony, different instruments sound together; each one maintains its unmistakable timbre and its characteristics of sound are in accord with something in common. Then there is the one who leads,, the director, and in the symphony that is performed all together have a “harmony,” but the timbre of each instrument, the peculiarity of each isn’t cancelled, rather, it is valued to the utmost!

It is a beautiful image which tells us that the Church is like a great orchestra in which there is variety; there is variety among the components, but there is no conflict, no opposition. It is a variety that lets itself be founded in the harmony of the Holy Spirit; He is the true “Maestro,” He himself is harmony. And here we ask ourselves: do we live harmony in our communities? Do we accept the other, do we accept that there is a just variety or do we tend to make everything uniform? Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to make us ever more “Catholics”!

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the Creed, we profess that the Church is “Catholic”; in other words, she is universal. We can understand this catholicity in three ways. First, the Church is catholic because she proclaims the apostolic faith in its entirety; she is the place where we meet Christ in his sacraments and receive the spiritual gifts needed to grow in holiness together with our brothers and sisters. The Church is also catholic because her communion embraces the whole human race, and she is sent to bring to the entire world the joy of salvation and the truth of the Gospel. Finally, the Church is catholic because she reconciles the wonderful diversity of God’s gifts to build up his People in unity and harmony. Let us ask the Lord to make us more catholic – to enable us, like a great family, to grow together in faith and love, to draw others to Jesus in the communion of the Church, and to welcome the gifts and contributions of everyone, in order to create a joyful symphony of praise to God for his goodness, his grace, and his redemptive love.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

General Audience.    On the Apostolic Church

VATICAN CITY, October 16, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's continuing catechesis on the Creed during his weekly General Audience held in St. Peter's Square today.

* * *

“I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” I don’t know if you have ever reflected on the meaning of the expression “the Church is Apostolic.” Perhaps never, or perhaps some time, coming to Rome, you thought of the importance of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who gave their life here to bring the Gospel and witness to it.

But it is more. To profess that the Church is Apostolic means to stress the profound, constitutive bond that she has with the Apostles, with that small group of twelve men that one day Jesus called to himself; He called them by name, so that they would stay with Him and to send them to preach (cf. Mark 3:13-19). “Apostle,” in fact, is a Greek work which means “sent.” An apostle is a person who is sent, he is sent forth to do something and the Apostles were chosen, called and sent by Jesus, to continue his work, that is, to pray - it is the first job of an apostle - and second, to announce the Gospel. This is important, because when we think of the Apostles we may think that they are only sent to announce the Gospel, to do so many works. But in the first moments of the Church there was a problem because the Apostles had so much to do so they formed deacons, so that there would be more time for the Apostles to pray and announce the Word of God. When we think of the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, including the Pope because he is also a Bishop, we should ask ourselves if this successor of the Apostles first prays and then announces the Gospel: this is being an Apostles and for this the Church is apostolic. All of us, if we want to be apostles as I will explain now, we must ask ourselves: do I pray for the salvation of the world? Do I announce the Gospel? This is the apostolic Church! It is an associative bond we have with the Apostles.

Beginning, precisely, from this I would like to underline briefly three meanings of the adjective “Apostolic” applied to the Church.

The Church is Apostolic because she was founded on the preaching and prayer of the Apostles, on the authority that was given to them by Christ himself. Saint Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus: “You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, it compares therefore, christians with the living stones that make up the building that is the Church, and this building is founded upon the apostles, as columns, and the rock that holds everything is Jesus Himself. Without Jesus the Church cannot exist! Jesus is the very basis of the Church, the foundation! The Apostles lived with Jesus, they listened to his words, they shared his life, above all they were witnesses of his Death and Resurrection. Our faith, the Church that Christ desired, is not founded on an idea, on a philosophy, but on Christ himself. And the Church is like a plant that has grown in the course of the centuries; she has developed, borne fruit, but her roots are well planted in Him and the fundamental experience of Christ that the Apostles had, chosen and sent by Jesus, reaching down to us. From that small plant to our times: that is how the Church is in the whole world.

But let’s ask ourselves: how is it possible for us to connect with that witness, how can what the Apostles lived with Jesus, what they heard from him, reach us? See the second meaning of the term “apostolicity.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Church is Apostolic because “with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the ‘good deposit’,’ the salutary words she has heard from the Apostles” (no. 857). The Church keeps, throughout the centuries, this precious treasure, which is the Sacred Scripture, the Doctrine, the Sacraments, the ministry of Pastors, so that we can be faithful to Christ and participate in his very life. It is as a river that runs in history, it develops, irrigates, but the running water is always that which comes from the source, from Christ himself: He is the Risen One, the Living One, and his words do not pass away, because He does not pass away, He is alive, He is here with us today, He hears and we speak with Him, He is in our hearts. Jesus is with us, today! This is the beauty of the Church: the presence of Jesus Christ among us. Do we ever think of how important this gift is that Christ has given us, the gift of the Church, where we can encounter Him? Do we ever think how it is precisely the Church in her long journey throughout these centuries – despite the difficulties, the problems, the weaknesses, our sins – that transmits to us the authentic message of Christ? That she gives us the certainty that what we believe in is really what Christ has communicated to us?

The last thought: the Church is Apostolic because she is sent to take the Gospel to the whole world. The same mission that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles continues in the journey of history: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is what Jesus told us to do! I insist on this aspect of missionary activity, because Christ invites all to “go” and meet others, he sends us, he asks us to move to take the joy of the Gospel! Once again we ask ourselves: are we missionaries with our word and above all with our Christian life, with our witness? Or are we Christians that are closed in our hearts and in our churches, ‘sacristy christians’? Christians only by word but that live like pagans? We should ask ourselves these questions, which are not a rebuke. I too tell myself the same: how am I a Christian, with a true witness?

The Church has her roots in the teaching of the Apostles, authentic witnesses of Christ, but she always looks to the future, she has the firm awareness of being sent - sent by Jesus - of being missionary, carrying the name of Jesus with prayer, the announcement and the witness. A Church that is shut-in on herself and in the past, a Church that looks only at the small rules of habit, of attitude, is a Church that betrays her own identity; a closed Church betrays its own identity! Now then, let us rediscover today all the beauty and the responsibility of being an Apostolic Church! And remember: [We are an] apostolic Church because we pray - our first task - and because we announce the Gospel with our life and with our words.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Creed, we profess in faith that the Church is “apostolic”. We can understand this in three ways. First, the Church is apostolic because Jesus founded her upon the Apostles whom he chose and sent forth to continue his work; thus Saint Paul compares the Church to a temple which has the Apostles as its foundation and Christ as its cornerstone (Eph 2:19-20). The Church is also apostolic because she preserves and hands down the fullness of Christ’s teaching and the means of salvation which he instituted. Finally the Church is apostolic because she accomplishes in history the mission which Christ entrusted to the Apostles: making disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them his commands (cf. Mt 28:19-20). May we come to appreciate and love the Church as the place where we encounter the Risen Lord, who sends us forth as his missionaries, inviting all whom we meet to know the truth of the Gospel, the joy of faith and the promise of eternal life proclaimed by the Apostles.

---------------------------------------------------

General Audience:  On Mary, Model of Faith, Charity and Union with Christ

VATICAN CITY, October 23, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Church in the Year of Faith during his weekly General Audience at St. Peter’s Square today.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Continuing the catechesis on the Church, today I would like to look at Mary as image and model of the Church. I do so taking up an expression of Vatican Council II. The Constitution Lumen Gentium says: “As Saint Ambrose already taught, the Mother of God is figure of the Church in the order of faith, of charity and of perfect union with Christ” (No. 63).

We begin with the first aspect, Mary as model of faith. In what sense does Mary represent a model for the faith of the Church? Let us think who the Virgin Mary was: a Jewish girl, who awaited with her whole heart the redemption of her people. But in the heart of that young daughter of Israel there was a secret which she herself did not yet know: in the design of God’s love she was destined to become the Mother of the Redeemer.

In the Annunciation, God’s Messenger called her “full of grace” and reveals this plan to her. Mary answers “yes” and from that moment Mary’s faith received a new light: she concentrates on Jesus, Son of God who has taken flesh from her, in which the promises are fulfilled of the whole history of salvation. Mary’s faith is the fulfillment of Israel’s faith, in Her the entire way, the entire path of that people awaiting redemption is concentrated, and in this sense it is the model of the faith of the Church, which has Christ as center, incarnation of God’s infinite love.

How did Mary live this faith? In the simplicity of the thousands of daily occupations and preoccupations of every mother, such as providing food, clothes, the care of the home … In fact this normal existence of Our Lady was the terrain where a singular relationship took place and a profound dialogue between her and God, between her and her Son. Mary’s “yes,” already perfect at the beginning, grew up to the hour of the Cross. There her maternity was dilated embracing each one of us, our life, to lead us to her Son. Mary always lived immersed in the mystery of God made man, as his first and perfect disciple, meditating everything in her heart in the light of the Holy Spirit, to understand and put into practice the whole will of God.

Let us ask ourselves: do we let ourselves be illuminated by the faith of Mary our Mother? Or do we think of her as far away, too different from us? In moments of difficulty, of trial, of darkness, do we look at her as model of trust in God, who wills always and only our good? Let us think about this, maybe it will do us well to find Mary as a model and figure of the Church in this faith that she had.

We come to the second aspect: Mary model of charity. In what way is Mary a living example of love for the Church? We think of her willingness in her assistance to her cousin Elizabeth. Visiting her, the Virgin Mary did not only take her material help, this also, but she took Jesus, who was already living in her womb. To take Jesus to that home meant to take joy, the fullness of joy. Elizabeth and Zechariah were happy because of the pregnancy that seemed impossible at their age, but it is young Mary who takes to them the fullness of joy, that which comes from Jesus and from the Holy Spirit and is expressed in gratuitous charity, in sharing, in helping one another, in understanding each other.

Our Lady also wants to bring to us, to all, the great gift that is Jesus; and with Him she brings his love, his peace, his joy. Thus the Church is like Mary, the Church is not a business, it is not a humanitarian agency, the Church is not an NGO, the Church is sent to bring Christ and his Gospel; it does not bring itself - whether it is small, large, strong, weak, the Church brings Jesus and should be like Mary when went to visit Elizabeth. What did Mary bring? Jesus. The Church brings Jesus: this is the center of the Church, to bring Jesus! If, hypothetically, the Church at one time does not bring Jesus, that would be a dead Church! The Church should bring the charity of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the charity of Jesus.

We spoke of Mary, of Jesus. And us? We that are the Church? What love do we take to others? Is it the love of Jesus that shares, that forgives, that accompanies, or is it a watered down love, like watered down wine that resembles water? Is it a strong love, or so weak that it follows sympathies, that seeks an exchange, a love with interests. Another question: does Jesus like love with interests? No, he does not like it, because love must be free, like His. How are relations in our parishes, in our communities? Do we treat one another as brothers and sisters? Or do we judge one another, speak badly of each other, each caring for their own turf, or do we care one for another. These are questions of charity!

And, briefly, a last aspect: Mary is model of union with Christ. The life of the Holy Virgin was the life of a woman of her people: she prayed, worked, went to the synagogue … However, every action was always carried out in perfect union with Jesus. This union reached its climax on Calvary: here Mary unites herself to her Son in the martyrdom of the heart and in the offering of life to the Father for the salvation of humanity. Our Lady made her own the pain of her Son and with Him accepted the Father’s will, in that obedience that bears fruit, which gives the true victory over evil and death.

This reality that Mary teaches us is very beautiful: to be always united to Jesus. We can ask ourselves: do we remember Jesus only when something is not going well or when we are in need, or is our relationship constant, a profound friendship, also when it is a question of following him on the way of the cross?

Let us ask the Lord to give us the gift of his grace, his strength, so that in our life and in the life of every ecclesial community the model is reflected of Mary, Mother of the Church. So be it!

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our continuing catechesis on the Church, we now look to the Virgin Mary who, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, is "the model of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ" (Lumen Gentium, 63).

As a daughter of Israel, Mary responded in faith to God’s call and became the Mother of his Son. She teaches us to live a life of faith by her obedience to God’s will and by her unfailing devotion to Jesus and his work. Mary also models the Church’s charity, born of faith, which brings the joy and peace of Christ’s presence to others and to our world.

Finally, Mary models the Church’s union with Christ through her constant prayer and participation in the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. As Mother of the Church, may Mary, by her prayers, bring us ever closer to the Lord, open our hearts to share his transforming and redeeming love, and inspire us to put our firm faith in God’s word, trusting in his goodness and his gracious plan for us and for our world.

--------------------------------------------------------------

General Audience:  On the Communion of Saints

VATICAN CITY, October 30, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Creed in the Year of Faith, which was given today during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to speak about a very beautiful reality of our faith, namely, the “communion of Saints.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that with this expression two realities are understood: communion in holy things and communion among holy persons (No. 948). I shall pause on the second meaning: it is among the most consoling truths of our faith, because it reminds us that we are not alone but that there is a communion of life among all those who belong to Christ. A communion that is born of faith; in fact, the term “Saints” refers to those who believe in the Lord Jesus and are incorporated with him in the Church through Baptism. Because of this, the first Christians were also called “the Saints” (cf. Acts 9:13.32.41; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 6:1).

John’s Gospel attests that , before his Passion, Jesus prayed to the Father for communion among the disciples, with these words: “that they may all be one ; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in three, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (17:21). In her most profound truth the Church is communion with God, familiarity with God, communion of love with Christ and with the Father in the Holy Spirit, which is prolonged in a fraternal communion. This relationship between Jesus and the Father is the “foundation” of the bond among us Christians: if we are intimately inserted in this “foundation,” in this burning furnace of love that is the Trinity, then we can truly become one heart and one spirit among us, because the love of God purges our egoisms, our prejudices, our internal and external divisions. The love of God purges our sins as well.

If there is this rootedness in the source of Love, which is God, then the reciprocal movement is also verified: from brothers to God; the experience of fraternal communion leads me to communion with God. To be united among ourselves brings us to be united with God, it brings us to this bond with God who is our Father. This is the second aspect of the communion of Saints that I would like to underline: our faith is in need of the support of others, especially in difficult moments. If we are united, faith becomes strong. How beautiful it is to support one another in the wonderful adventure of faith! I say this because the tendency to shut oneself in on oneself has also influenced the religious realm, so that many times it is an effort to ask for spiritual help from those who share the Christian experience with us. Which one of us -- everyone, everyone -- has not felt insecurities, losses and even doubts in the journey of faith? All of us have experienced this, even myself: it is a part of the path of faith, it is a part of our life. All this must not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations; we are all fragile, we all have limitations. However, in these difficult moments it is necessary to trust in God’s help through filial prayer and, at the same time, it is important to find the courage and the humility to open oneself to others, to ask for help, to ask for a hand. How many times have we have done this and then we were able to come out of a problem and find God again. In this communion - communion means ‘common-union’ - we are a great family, all of us, where all the components help and support each other.

And we come to another aspect: the communion of Saints goes beyond earthly life, it goes beyond death and lasts forever. This union among us, goes beyond and continues in the afterlife; it is a spiritual union that stems from Baptism is not severed by death but, thanks to the Resurrection of Christ, is destined to find its fullness in eternal life. There is a profound and indissoluble bond among all those who are still pilgrims in this world - among us - and those who have crossed the threshold of death to enter into eternity. All the baptized down here on earth, the souls in Purgatory and all the Blessed who are already in Paradise make up one great family. This communion between earth and Heaven is brought about especially through the intercessory prayer.

Dear friends, we have this beauty! It is our reality, of all, that makes us brothers, that accompanies us on the path of life and makes us find another time up in heaven. Let us go through this path with faithfulness, with joy. A Christian should be joyful, with the joy of having so many brothers baptized that walk with him; sustained by the help of the brothers and sisters that are on the same path to go to heaven; and also with the help of the brothers and sisters that are in heaven and pray to God for us. Let us go forward on this path with joy!

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we now reflect on “the communion of saints”. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, this is a communion “in holy things” and “among holy persons” (No. 948). The communion of saints is the deepest reality of the Church, because in Christ, through Baptism, we are made sharers in the communion of life and love which is the Blessed Trinity. As such, we are united to one another in the Body of Christ. Through this fraternal communion we draw nearer to God and we are called to support one another spiritually. The communion of saints does not only embrace the Church on earth; it also embraces all who have died in Christ, the souls in purgatory and the saints in heaven. We experience this solidarity between heaven and earth in our intercessory prayer and in the feasts of All Saints and All Souls which we shall soon celebrate. As we rejoice in this great mystery, let us ask the Lord to draw us ever closer to him and to all our brothers and sisters in the Church.

------------------------------------------------------------------- 

On Sacraments, Charisms and Charity
"The sacraments drive us to be missionaries"

VATICAN CITY, November 06, 2013  - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Last Wednesday I talked about the communion of saints, understood as communion among holy persons, namely, among us believers. Today I would like to reflect further on the other aspect of this reality: You recall that there were two aspects: one of communion, of unity among us, and the other aspect being the communion of holy things, of spiritual goods. The two aspects are closely connected, in fact the communion among Christians grows through participation in spiritual goods. In particular we consider: the Sacraments, the charisms, and charity. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 949-953). We grow in unity, in communion, with the sacraments, the charisms that each one has from the Holy Spirit, and with charity.

First of all communion in the sacraments. The sacraments express and bring about an effective and profound communion among us, because in them we encounter Christ the Savior and, through Him, our brothers in the faith. The sacraments are not appearances, they are not rites, but they are the strength of Christ; it is Jesus Christ present in the sacraments. When we celebrate the Eucharist it is the living Jesus who gathers us, who makes us community, and who makes us adore the Father. Each one of us, in fact, through baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist, is incorporated to Christ and united with the whole community of believers. Therefore, if on one hand it is the Church that “makes” the sacraments, on the other it is the sacraments that “make” the Church, they build her, generating new children, adding them to the Holy People of God, solidifying their membership.

Every encounter with Christ, which in the sacraments gives us salvation, invites us to “go” and to communicate to others a salvation that we have been able to see, to touch, to encounter, to receive, and which is truly credible because it is love. In this way, the sacraments drive us to be missionaries, and the apostolic commitment to take the Gospel to every environment, also in those that are more hostile, constitutes the most authentic fruit of an assiduous sacramental life, in as much as it is participation in God’s salvific initiative, who wills to give salvation to all. The grace of the sacraments nourishes in us a strong and joyous faith, a faith that is able to be amazed by the “wonders” of God and is able to resist the idols of the world. Because of this, it is important to go to Communion, it is important that children be baptized soon, that they be confirmed, because the sacraments are the presence of Jesus Christ in us, a presence that helps us. It is important, when we feel ourselves sinners, to approach the sacrament of reconciliation. Someone might say: “But I’m afraid, because the priest will thrash me.” No, the priest won’t thrash you. Do you know who you will encounter in the sacrament of reconciliation? You will encounter Jesus who forgives you! It is Jesus who awaits you there; and this is a sacrament that makes the whole Church grow.

A second aspect of communion in holy things is that of the communion of charisms. The Holy Spirit dispenses to the faithful a multitude of spiritual gifts and graces; this so to speak “fanciful” richness of gifts of the Holy Spirit is aimed at the building of the Church. The charisms – a somewhat difficult word – are presents that the Holy Spirit gives us, abilities, possibilities … Presents given not for them to be hidden, but to share with others. They are not given for the benefit of the one who receives them, but for the benefit of the People of God. If, instead, a charism, one of these presents, serves to affirm the self, we must doubt that it is a genuine charism or that it is faithfully lived. The charisms are particular graces given to some to do good to many others. They are attitudes, inspirations and interior impulses, which are born in the conscience and in the experience of specific persons, who are called to put them at the service of the community. In particular, these spiritual gifts are for the advantage of the sanctity of the Church and of her mission. We are all called to respect them in ourselves and in others, to receive them as useful stimulants for the presence and fecund work of the Church. Saint Paul admonished: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Let us not quench the Spirit that gives us these presents, these abilities, these very beautiful virtues that make the Church grow.

What is our attitude in face of these gifts of the Holy Spirit? Are we aware that the Spirit of God is free to give them to whom He wishes? Do we consider them as a spiritual help, through which the Lord sustains our faith and reinforces our mission in the world?

And we come to the third aspect of communion in holy things, namely, the communion of charity, unity among us that charity and love effect. Observing the first Christians, the pagans said: but how they love one another, how they wish good to each other! They do not hate each other, they do not speak ill of one another. This is charity, the love of God that the Holy Spirit puts in our hearts. The charisms are important in the life of the Christian community, but they are always means to grow in charity, in love, which Saint Paul places above the charisms (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Without love, in fact, even the most extraordinary gifts are vain; this man heals people, he has this quality, this other virtue … but does he have love and charity in his heart? If he does, that’s good, but if he doesn’t it is of no use to the Church. Without love all these gifts and charisms do not serve the Church, because where there is no love there is a void that is filled with egoism. And I ask myself: are we all egoistic? Can we live in communion and in peace? We cannot; that is why love, which unites, is necessary. The smallest of our gestures of love has good effects for all! Therefore, to live unity in the Church and the communion of charity means not to seek one’s own interest, but to share the sufferings and joys of brothers (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26), ready to carry the weights of those who are weaker and poorer. This fraternal solidarity is not a rhetorical figure, a way of speaking, but it is an integral part of communion among Christians. If we live it, we are a sign in the world, “sacrament” of the love of God. We are this for one another and we are this for all!” It is not just that little work of charity that we can offer one another, it is something more profound: it is a communion which renders us able to enter in the joy and sorrow of others and to make them sincerely ours.

And often we are too arid, indifferent, detached and, instead of transmitting fraternity, we transmit ill humor, coldness, egoism. And with ill humor, coldness, egoism we cannot make the Church grow; the Church grows only with the love that comes from the Holy Spirit. The Lord invites us to open ourselves to communion with Him, in the sacraments, in the charisms and in charity, to live in a worthy way our Christian vocation!

And now I permit myself to ask you for an act of charity: be at peace there won’t be a collection! Before coming to the Square I went to meet a one-and-a half-year-old girl with a very serious illness. Her father and mother pray, and they ask the Lord for health for this beautiful child. Her name is Noemi. The poor little thing smiled! Let us do an act of love. We do not know her, but she is a baptized child, she is one of us, she is a Christian. Let us do an act of love for her and in silence let us ask that the Lord help her at this moment and give her health. In silence for an instant, and then we will pray the Hail Mary. And now all together we pray to Our Lady for Noemi’s health. Hail Mary  … Thank you for this act of charity.

[Here is the text of the English-language summary read after the Holy Father's reflection:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, we now reflect on “the communion of saints” as a communion not only of persons but also of spiritual goods. Through our sharing in those goods, we grow in communion with Christ and with the members of his body, the Church. Today let us consider three of these spiritual treasures: the sacraments, charisms and charity. In the sacraments, we encounter Christ in all his saving power, are confirmed in the joy of faith, and sent forth to share with others the joy of salvation. Through the variety of charisms, the spiritual gifts and graces bestowed by the Holy Spirit, we help to build up the Church in unity, holiness and service. In charity, all these spiritual gifts find their fulfilment; everything is ordered to our growth in God’s love. Let us ask the Lord to increase our communion in these spiritual goods, so that we can live ever more fully our Christian vocation in union with him and as joyful signs of his saving love, present and at work in our midst.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Forgiveness of Sins
"This Solemn Declaration Highlights the Importance of Baptism and Affirms our Identity as Children of God"

VATICAN CITY, November 13, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ continuing catechesis on the Creed in the Year of Faith during today’s General Audience held in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Creed, through which every Sunday we make our profession of faith, we affirm: “I believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” It is the only explicit reference to a Sacrament within the Creed. In fact Baptism is the “door” of faith and of the Christian life. The Risen Jesus left this task to the Apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved” *Mark 16:15-16). The mission of the Church is to evangelize and to remit sins through the baptismal sacrament. But let us return to the words of the Creed. The expression can be divided in three points: “I believe”; in one Baptism”; “for the remission of sins.”

“I believe.” What does this mean? It is a solemn term that indicates the great importance of the object, namely Baptism. In fact, by pronouncing these words we affirm our true identity as children of God. In a certain sense, Baptism is the identification card of the children of God, his certificate of birth, it is the birth certificate of the Church. All of you know the day you were born and celebrate your birthday, right? We all celebrate our birthday. I will ask you a question, that I have asked other times before, but I will ask again: Who among you remembers the date of their Baptism? Raise your hand: there are very few (and I won’t ask the Bishops to not embarrass them…). But let us do something: today, when you return home, ask what day you were baptized, search, because this is your second birthday. The first birthday is when you were born into life and the second birthday is when you were born into the Church. Will you do this? It is a task to do at home: to look for the day in which you were born into the Church and thank the Lord because on the day of your Baptism the doors of the Church were opened to you. At the same time, Baptism is linked to our faith in the remission of sins. The Sacrament of Penance or Confession is, in fact, like a “second Baptism,” which refers always to the first to consolidate and renew it. In this sense the day of our Baptism is the point of departure of a journey of conversion that lasts our whole life and which is continually sustained by the Sacrament of Penance. Think of this: when we go to confess our weaknesses, our sins, we are asking forgiveness of Jesus, but we also go to renew our Baptism with this forgiveness. And this is beautiful, it is like celebrating the day of your Baptism in every Confession. Therefore, Confession is not being seated in a torture room, rather it is a feast. Confession is for the baptized! To keep clean the white garment of our Christian dignity!

Second element: “in one Baptism.” This expression recalls that of Saint Paul: “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). The word “baptism” means literally “immersion,” and, in fact, this Sacrament constitutes a true spiritual immersion in the death of Christ, from which we are raised with Him as new creatures (cf. Romans 6:4). It is a cleansing of regeneration and illumination. Regeneration because it effects that birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. John 3:5). Illumination because, through Baptism, the human person is filled with the grace of Christ, “true light that enlightens every man” (John 1:9) and scatters the darkness of sin. For this reason, in the Baptismal ceremony, the parents are given a lit candle, to signify this illumination; Baptism illuminates us from within with the light of Jesus. In virtue of this gift, the baptized is called to become himself “light” - the light of the faith they have received for his brothers, especially for those who are in darkness and do not perceive glimmers of light on the horizon of their life.

Let us ask ourselves: is Baptism for me an event of the past, isolated in one date, that which you will search today, or a living reality, that concerns my present in every moment? Do you feel strong, with the strength given to you by Christ with His death and His Resurrection? Or do you feel beaten, without strength.  Do you feel illuminated, with that light that comes from Christ? Are you a man or woman of light? Or are you a dark person, without the light of Jesus? You must take the grace of Baptism, that is a gift, and become light for all!

Finally, a brief reference to the third element: “for the remission of sins.” In the Sacrament of Baptism all sins are remitted, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. With Baptism the door opens to an effective newness of life that is not oppressed by the weight of a negative past, but now feels again the beauty and the goodness of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a powerful intervention of the mercy of God in our life, to save us. This salvific intervention does not take away from our human nature its weakness - we are all weak and we are all sinners -; and it does not take away the responsibility to ask for forgiveness every time that we err! I cannot be baptized more times, but I can confess myself and renew the grace of Baptism. It is as if I made a second Baptism. The Lord Jesus is so good and he never tires of forgiving us. Even when the door that Baptism opened to enter into the Church is closed a bit because of our weakness and our sins, Confession reopens it, because it is like a second Baptism that forgives us all and illuminates us to go forward with the light of the Lord.  Let us go forward, joyful, because life is lived with the joy of Jesus Christ; and this is a grace of the Lord.

--- --- ---

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today I would like to continue our catechesis on the Creed by turning to the Sacrament of Baptism. Each Sunday when making our Profession of Faith, we pray: I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Let us look at each of these words. I confess – This solemn declaration highlights the importance of Baptism and affirms our identity as children of God. In the Sacrament, our faith is also linked to the remission of sins. When we confess our sins, we renew and strengthen our Baptismal identity. Baptism, then, is the point of departure for a lifelong journey of conversion sustained by the Sacrament of Penance. One Baptism – The word Baptism literally means immersion. Through the Sacrament, we are immersed spiritually in the death of Jesus Christ and we rise with him as a new creation. Regenerated by water and the Holy Spirit, we are illuminated by grace which dispels the darkness of sin. For the forgiveness of sins – Baptism forgives original sin and personal sin. The door to a new life is opened and the mercy of God enters our lives. But human weakness remains. The Church teaches us to confess our sins with humility, because only in forgiveness, received and given, do our restless hearts find peace and joy.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------

On the Forgiveness of Sins

VATICAN CITY, November 20, 2013  - Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ continuing catechesis on the Creed from his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square today.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday I spoke about the forgiveness of sins, referred in a particular way to Baptism. Today we continue with the subject of the forgiveness of sins, but in reference to the so-called “power of the keys,” which is a biblical symbol of the mission that Jesus gave to the Apostles.

First of all we must remember that the protagonist of the forgiveness of sins is the Holy Spirit. In his first apparition to the Apostles, in the Cenacle, the Risen Jesus made the gesture of breathing on them saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). Jesus, transfigured in his body, is now the new man who offers the paschal gifts, fruit of his Death and Resurrection: What are these gifts? Peace, joy, the forgiveness of sin, the mission but above all he gives the Holy Spirit who is the source of all this. Jesus’ breath, accompanied by the words with which he communicates the Spirit, indicates the transmission of life, the new life regenerated by forgiveness.

However before doing the gesture of breathing and giving the Spirit, Jesus shows his wounds, in his hands and on his side: these wounds are the price of our salvation. The Holy Spirit brings us God’s forgiveness “passing through” Jesus’ wounds. These wounds that He wished to preserve: even in this moment He is in Heaven and showing the Father the wounds which have saved us. Through the strength of these wounds, our sins are forgiven:this is how Jesus has given his life for our peace, for our joy, for the gift of the grace in our soul, for the forgiveness of our sins. And it is very beautiful to see Jesus this way!

And we come to the second element: Jesus gives the Apostles the power of forgiving sins; It is a bit difficult to understand how a man can forgive sins, but Jesus gives this power. The Church is depository of the power of the keys,of either opening or closing forgiveness. God forgives every man in His sovereign mercy, but He himself willed that all those who belong to Christ and to his Church, should receive forgiveness through the ministers of the Community. God’s mercy reaches me through the apostolic ministry, my faults are forgiven and joy is given to me. Thus Jesus calls us to live reconciliation also in the ecclesial, communitarian dimension. And this is very beautiful. The Church, which is holy and at the same time needy of penance, accompanies our journey of conversion for the whole of life. The Church is not owner of the power of the keys, she is not owner, but servant of the ministry of mercy and rejoices every time that she can offer this divine gift.

Many persons, perhaps, do not understand the ecclesial dimension of forgiveness, because individualism and subjectivism prevail, and we Christians also resent it. God certainly forgives personally every sinner who is repentant, but the Christian is tied to Christ, and Christ is united to the Church. For us Christians there is another gift, and it is also an added commitment: to pass humbly through the ecclesial ministry. We should value this; it is a gift, a cure, a protection and also a security that God has forgiven me. I go to a brother priest and I say, “Father, I have done this…” And he responds: “But I forgive you; God forgives you.” In that moment, I am sure that God has forgiven me! And this is beautiful, this is having that security that God always forgives us, he does not tire of forgiving. And we should not tire of going to ask forgiveness. It may be embarrassing to tell our sins, but as our mothers and grandmothers would say, it is better to become red (blushed) one time than yellow a thousand times. You become red once, but then we come forgiven of our sins and we go forward.

Finally, a last point: the priest instrument for the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of God which is given to us in the Church, is transmitted to us through the ministry of a brother of ours, the priest; a man, who like us is in need of mercy, becomes truly instrument of mercy, giving us the unbounded love of God the Father ….Yes, as I said earlier, God always listens to you, but in the Sacrament of Reconciliation he sends a brother to bring you forgiveness, the security of forgiveness in the name of the Church.

The service that the priest gives as minister, on behalf of God, to forgive sins is very delicate, a very delicate service, and calls for his heart to be in peace; that he not mistreat the faithful, but that he be meek, benevolent and merciful; that he be able to sow hope in hearts and, above all, that he be aware that the brother or sister who approaches the Sacrament of Reconciliation seeks forgiveness and does so as so many people approached Jesus to be healed. For the priest who does not have this disposition of spirit, it is better that, until he corrects himself, he does not administer this Sacrament. Do the penitent faithful have the duty? No! They have the right to find in priests servants of God’s forgiveness.

Dear brothers, as members of the Church, are we aware of this gift that God Himself offers us? Do we feel the joy of this healing, of this maternal care that the Church has for us? Are we able to appreciate it with simplicity and assiduity? Let us not forget that God never tires of forgiving us; through the ministry of the priest He clasps us in a new embrace that regenerates us and enables us to rise again and take up our journey again. Because this is our life: to continually rise up and return on the path. Thank you.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  Today I would like to speak again on the forgiveness of sins by reflecting on the power of the keys, which is a biblical symbol of the mission Jesus entrusted to the Apostles.  First and foremost, we recall that the source of the forgiveness of sins is the Holy Spirit, whom the Risen Jesus bestowed upon the Apostles.  Hence, he made the Church the guardian of the keys, of this power.  The Church, however, is not the master of forgiveness, but its servant.  The Church accompanies us on our journey of conversion for the whole of our lives and calls us to experience reconciliation in its communal and ecclesial dimension.  We receive forgiveness through the priest.  Through his ministry, God has given us a brother to bring us forgiveness in the name of the Church.  Priests, who are the servants of this sacrament, must recognize that they also are in need of forgiveness and healing, and so they must exercise their ministry in humility and mercy.  Let us then remember always that God never tires of forgiving us. Let us truly value this sacrament and rejoice in the gift of pardon and healing that comes to us through the ministry of priests.

----------------------------------------------------

Pope Francis' Homily at the Closing Mass for the Year of Faith

VATICAN CITY, November 24, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's homily at the Closing Mass for the Year of Faith held in St. Peter's Square today. 

* * *

Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.

With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.

The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the centre, Christ is the centre. Christ is the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of his people and Christ is the centre of history.

1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col1:12-20). He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.

This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will beChristian words, words of Christ. But when this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.

2. Besides being the centre of creation and the centre of reconciliation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.

Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the"brother" around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the centre, do we receive our identity as a people.

3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of humanity and also the centre of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.

Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain – "If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!" – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: "Remember me, when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23:42). Jesus promises him: "Today you will be with me in paradise" (v.43), in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Today we can all think of our own history, our own journey. Each of us has his or her own history: we think of our mistakes, our sins, our good times and our bleak times. We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: "Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the centre, you are truly in your kingdom!" How beautiful this is! Let us all do this today, each one of us in his or her own heart, again and again. "Remember me, Lord, you who are at the centre, you who are in your kingdom".

Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom! Let us go forward together on this road!

 

--------------------------------------------------------

 

VATICAN CITY, November 24, 2013  - Here is the translation of the address given by Pope Francis before the recitation of the Angelus at the Closing Mass for the Year of Faith.

* * *

Before concluding this celebration, I would like to greet all the pilgrims, families, parish groups, associations and movements, who have come from so many countries. I greet the participants in the national conference on mercy. I greet the Ukrainian community, which observes the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor, the “great famine” provoked by the Soviet regime that caused millions of deaths.

On this day our grateful thoughts turn to the missionaries, who, over the course of the centuries, have proclaimed the Gospel and sowed the seeds of faith in many parts of the world. Among these is Bl. Junípero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary. Today is the 300th anniversary of his birth.

I do not want to end without recognizing all those who worked to promote this Year of Faith, [in particular] Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who guided this journey. I thank him very much, from my heart, him and all his collaborators. Many thanks!

Now let us pray the Angelus together. With this prayer we invoke the protection of Mary especially for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because of their faith, and there are many!

Angelus Domini…

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]

I thank you for your presence at this concelebration. I wish you a good Sunday and a good lunch.

----------------------------------------------------- 

On Dying in Christ

VATICAN CITY, November 27, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Creed during today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning and congratulations because you are brave to be here in this square with this cold [weather]. Many compliments!

I want to bring to a close the catechesis on the “Creed,” carried out during the Year of Faith, which ended last Sunday. In this and the next catechesis I would like to consider the subject of the resurrection of the flesh, taking two aspects as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, namely our dying and rising in Jesus Christ. Today I shall pause on the first aspect, to “die in Christ.”

Usually, among us, there is a mistaken way of seeing death. Death concerns everyone, and it questions us in a profound way, especially when it touches us up close, or when it strikes the little ones, the defenseless in a way that seems to us “scandalous.” I have always been struck by the question: why do children suffer? Why do children die? If death is understood as the end of everything, it frightens, terrifies, and is transformed into a threat that shatters every dream, every prospect, which breaks every relation and interrupts every way. This happens when we consider our life as a time enclosed between two poles: birth and death; when we do not believe in a horizon that goes beyond the present life; when one lives as if God did not exist. This idea of death is typical of atheistic thought, which interprets existence as finding oneself accidentally in the world and walking towards nothingness. But there is also a practical atheism, which is to live only for one’s own interests and earthly things. If we allow ourselves to be taken in by this mistaken vision of death, we have no other choice than that of hiding death, of denying it, or of trivializing it, so that it won’t make us afraid.

However, this false solution reveals man’s “heart,” the desire that we all have for the infinite, our nostalgia of the eternal. So, then, what is the Christian meaning of death? If we look at the most painful moments of our life, when we have lost a dear person – parents, a brother, a sister, a spouse, a child, a friend -- we remember that, even in the tragedy of the loss, even lacerated by the detachment, the conviction arises in our heart that everything cannot be finished, that the good given and received was not useless. There is a powerful instinct within us, which tells us that life does not end with death.

This thirst for life has found its real and reliable answer in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ Resurrection not only gives us the certainty of life beyond death, but it also illumines the mystery itself of the death of each one of us. If we live united to Jesus, faithful to Him, we will be able to face the passage of death with hope and serenity. The Church in fact prays: “If the certainty of having to die saddens you, you are consoled by the promise of future immortality.” This is a beautiful prayer of the Church!  A person tends to die the way they have lived. If my life has been a journey with the Lord, of trust in His immense mercy, I will be prepared to accept the last moment of my earthly existence as the definitive and confident abandonment in his welcoming hands, in the expectation of contemplating his countenance face to face. This is the most beautiful thing that could happen: to contemplate face to face that wonderful countenance of the Lord, to see him as he is, beautiful, full of light, full of love, full of tenderness. We go towards this end: to see the Lord.

Understood in this horizon is Jesus’ invitation to be always ready, vigilant, knowing that life in this world is also given to prepare for the other life, the one with the heavenly Father. And because of this, there is a sure way: to prepare well for death, staying close to Jesus (…) with prayer, in the Sacraments and also in the practice of charity. We remember that He is present in the weakest and neediest. He himself identified himself with them, in the famous parable of the Last Judgment, when he says: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. … All that you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me” (Matthew 25:35-36.40). Therefore, a sure way is to recover the meaning of Christian charity and fraternal sharing, to take care of the corporal and spiritual wounds of our neighbor. Solidarity in sharing sorrow and infusing hope is the premise and condition to receive in inheritance the Kingdom prepared for us. One who practices mercy does not fear death. Think well of this: who practices mercy does not fear death! Do you agree? Shall we say it together so as not to forget? One who practices mercy does not fear death. And why does he not fear death? Because he looks at it in the face in the wounds of brothers, and overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ.

If we open the door of our life and of our heart to our littlest brothers, then even our death will become a door that will introduce us to Heaven, to our blessed homeland, toward which we are directed, longing to dwell forever with our Father, with Jesus , Mary and the Saints.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we now reflect on “the resurrection of the body”. Christian faith illumines the mystery of death and brings the hope of the resurrection. Death challenges all of us: apart from belief in God and a vision of life as something greater than earthly existence, death appears as wholly tragic; we misunderstand it, fear and deny it. Yet human beings were made for something greater; we yearn for the infinite, the eternal. Christ’s resurrection not only offers us the certainty of life beyond death, it also shows us the true meaning of death. We die as we live: if our lives were lived in loving union with God, we will be able to abandon ourselves serenely and confidently into his hands at the moment of our death. Our Lord frequently tells us to be watchful, knowing that our life in this world is a preparation for the life to come. If we remain close to him, especially through charity to the poor and solidarity with those in need, we need not fear death, but rather welcome it as the door to heaven and to the joy of eternal life.

-------------------------------------------------

On Our Resurrection From the Dead

VATICAN CITY, December 04, 2013  - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave at today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today I return again to the affirmation “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” It is not a simple truth and anything but obvious because, immersed in this world, it is not easy to understand the future reality. However, the Gospel enlightens us: Our resurrection is closely linked to the Resurrection of Jesus; the fact that He is resurrected is the proof that the resurrection of the dead exists. I would now like to present some aspects regarding the relation between the Resurrection of Christ and our resurrection. (…)

First of all, Sacred Scripture itself contains a path to full faith in the resurrection of the dead. It is expressed as faith in God Creator of the whole man -- soul and body -- and as faith in God Liberator, the God faithful to the covenant with his people. In a vision, the prophet Ezekiel looks at the sepulchers of the deported that are reopened and the dry bones that come back to life thanks to the infusion of a vivifying spirit. This vision expresses the hope in the future “resurrection of Israel,” that is, in the rebirth of the defeated and humiliated people (cf. Ezekiel 37:1-14).

In the New Testament, Jesus brings this revelation to fulfillment, and links faith in the resurrection to his very person. He says: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). In fact, it will be the Lord Jesus who on the last day will resurrect those who believed in Him. Jesus came among us, he became man like us in everything, except sin; in this way he has taken us with Him on his journey of return to the Father. He, the incarnate Word, who died for us and rose, gives his disciples the Holy Spirit as earnest of full communion in his glorious Kingdom, which we await vigilantly. This waiting is the source and reason of our hope: a hope that is cultivated and guarded, (…) becomes light to illumine our personal and communal history, (…). Let us remember it always: we are disciples of Him who came, who comes every day and who will come at the end. If we succeed in having this reality more present, we will be less exhausted by the daily routine, less prisoners of the ephemeral and more willing to walk with a merciful heart on the path of salvation.

Another aspect: what does it mean to resurrect? Resurrection (…) will take place on the last day, at the end of the world, the work of the omnipotence of God, who will restore life to our body reuniting it to our soul, in virtue of the Resurrection of Jesus. (…) This transformation, (…) this transfiguration of our body is prepared in this life by our relation with Jesus in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. We, who in this life are nourished with his Body and his Blood will resurrect as He did, with Him and through Him. As Jesus rose with his own body, but he did not return to an earthly life, so we will rise with our bodies which will be transfigured in glorious bodies. (…)

Already in this life we have in us a participation in the Resurrection of Christ. If it is true that Jesus will resurrect us at the end of times, it is also true that, in a certain aspect, we are already resurrected with Him. (…) In fact, through Baptism, we are inserted in the Death and Resurrection of Christ and we participate in the new life (…). Therefore, while awaiting the last day, we have in ourselves a seed of resurrection, as anticipation of the full resurrection which we will receive in inheritance. Because of this, the body of each one of us is a resonance of eternity, hence it is always [to be] respected; and above all the life of those who suffer is respected and loved, so that they feel the closeness of the Kingdom of God, of that condition of eternal life towards which we are walking. (…)

* * *

I give a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the participants in the Seminar on Ethics and Values organized by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace.; the Daughters of Charity; the faithful of Polignano a Mare; the Forces of Order, in particular the Command of the Customs Service of the Abruzzo Region, the Light Infantrymen of Cosenza and the Grenadiers of Spoleto, accompanied by the Archbishop, Monsignor Boccardo. Moreover, I greet the students, especially those of the of the De Sanctis-Galilei High School of Manduria and the Institutes of San Nicola La Strada and “Sacred Heart” of Avezzano; the delegation of the Opera Romana leaving for Iraq; the parish groups and the numerous Associations, particularly “Spina-Bifida and Hydrocephalus” and the “Friends of Raoul Follereau,” committed in aid to the suffering. In these first days of Advent we turn to the Immaculate Virgin with confident prayer: She is the model of our journey to encounter Christ who comes among us.

Finally, an affectionate thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Patron of the Missions. This holy priest reminds us of the commitment we each have to proclaim the Gospel. Dear young people, be courageous witnesses of your faith; dear sick, offer your daily cross for the conversion of the estranged to the light of the Gospel; and you, dear newlyweds, be heralds of the love of Christ beginning with your family.

[The synthesis and greeting for English-speaking pilgrims:]

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: we return to our reflection on "the resurrection of the body", as we look at three aspects of the relationship between Christ’s resurrection and our own. First, the Gospel reveals to us that our faith in the resurrection is bound to the person of Jesus Christ, who himself said "I am the resurrection and the life". Like us in all things but sin, Christ gathers us to himself so that we may accompany him in his journey back to the Father. The Risen Christ gives his disciples the Holy Spirit as a pledge of communion with God which has its fullness in eternity. The anticipation of eternal life is the source and reason for our hope. If cultivated and protected, it illuminates our lives as persons and communities. Second, Christ rose in his glorified body. Through Christ, our bodies will also be glorified and reunited with our souls at the resurrection. Therefore, our experience of the Risen Christ in the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, prepares us for the reunion of our bodies and souls in heaven. Third, while Jesus will resurrect us at the end of time, even now he wishes us to share in his resurrection. Through Baptism, we are inserted into his death and resurrection and begin to experience new life. The seed of eternity is planted within us. Hence, the image of eternity is imprinted on us and calls us to respect the lives of all people, especially those who suffer. In this way, we can experience the closeness of the Reign of God, towards which we all journey together.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Final Judgment
"At the moment of the Judgment, we will not be left alone."

VATICAN CITY, December 11, 2013  - Here is a translation of the full text of the address Pope Francis gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square. 

---

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to begin the last series of catecheses on our profession of faith, addressing the affirmation “I believe in life everlasting.” In particular, I will reflect on the Final Judgment. However, we must not be afraid: let us hear what the Word of God says. In this regard, we read in Matthew’s Gospel: then Christ “will come in his glory, and all the angels with him … Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left …. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-33.46). When we think of Christ’s return and his Last Judgment, which will manifest to its ultimate consequences the good that each one did or did not do during his earthly life, we find ourselves before a mystery that overcomes us, which we are not even able to imagine. It is a mystery that almost instinctively arouses in us a sense of fear and perhaps also of trepidation. However, if we reflect well on this reality, it cannot but widen a Christian’s heart and be a great motive for consolation and trust.

In this connection, the testimony of the first Christian communities is all the more thought-provoking. They, in fact, usually accompanied their celebrations and prayers with the acclamation Maranatha, an expression made up of two Aramaic words that, according to how they are articulated, can be understood as a supplication: “Come, Lord!” or as a certainty nourished by faith: “Yes, the Lord comes, the Lord is close.” It is an exclamation in which the whole of Christian Revelation culminates, at the end of the wonderful contemplation offered to us in John’s Apocalypse (cf. Revelation 22:20). In that case, it is the Church-Bride that, in the name of the whole of humanity and as its first fruits, turns to Christ, her Spouse, impatient for the hour she will be enveloped by his embrace: Jesus’ embrace, which is fullness of life and fullness of love. That is how Jesus embraces us. If we think of the Judgment in this perspective, every fear and hesitation comes to naught and leaves room for expectation and profound joy: it will be in fact the moment in which we are finally judged and ready to be clothed in the glory of Christ, as in a nuptial garment, and to be led to the banquet, image of the full and definitive communion with God.

A second motive for trust is given us by the certainty that, at the moment of the Judgment, we will not be left alone. In Matthew’s Gospel, it is Jesus himself who announces beforehand how at the end of times those who followed him will take up their place in his glory, to judge together with him (cf. Matthew 19:28). Then the Apostle Paul, writing to the community of Corinth, affirms: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? …. How much more, matters pertaining to this life!” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). How lovely it is to know that in that difficult situation, in addition to Christ, our Paraclete, our Advocate with the Father (cf. 1 John 2:1), we will be able to count on the intercession and the benevolence of so many of our older brothers and sisters who have preceded us on the path of faith, who offered their life for us and who continue to love us in an unspeakable way! The saints already live in the presence of God, in the splendor of his glory praying for us who still live on earth. How much consolation this certainty arouses in our heart! The Church is truly a Mother and, as a Mother, she seeks the good of her children, especially those most far away and afflicted, so that they will find their fullness in the glorious body of Christ with all its members.

A further suggestion is given to us in John’s Gospel, where he affirms explicitly that “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe, is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18). This means, therefore, that that final judgment is already in progress, it begins now in the course of our existence. This judgment is pronounced every instant of our life, as a check on our acceptance with faith of the salvation present and operating in Christ, or on our incredulity, with the consequent closing-in on ourselves. However, if we close ourselves to the love of Jesus, it is we ourselves who condemn ourselves. Salvation is to open ourselves to Jesus, and He saves us; if we are sinners -- and we are all so – we ask Him to forgive us and if we go to Him with the desire to be good, the Lord forgives us. But for this we must open ourselves to the love of Jesus, which is stronger than all other things. The love of Jesus is great, the love of Jesus is merciful, the love of Jesus forgives; but one must open oneself and to open oneself means to repent, to accuse oneself of things that are not good and that one has done. The Lord Jesus gave himself and continues to give himself to us, to fill us with all the mercy and grace of the Father. Hence it is we who, in a certain sense, can become judges of ourselves, condemning ourselves to exclusion from communion with God and with brothers. Therefore, let us not tire of watching our thoughts and attitudes, to look forward, henceforth, to the warmth and splendor of the face of God – and this will be very beautiful --, which in eternal life we will contemplate in all its fullness. Forward, thinking of this Judgment that begins now, which has already begun. Forward, in such a way that our heart opens to Jesus and to his salvation; forward without fear, because the love of Jesus is greater and if we ask forgiveness for our sins He forgives us. Jesus is like that. Forward then with this certainty, which will lead us to the glory of Heaven!

---------------------------------------------------------------------