Continuing his catechesis on the Creed, Pope Francis reflected on the apostolic and missionary aspect of the Church. Thousands flocked to St. Peter’s Square to listen to the Holy Father’s words during his Wednesday General Audience.
“To profess that the Church is apostolic means to underline the profound connection, the association it has with the Apostles, with that small group of 12 men that Jesus called to Him one day, He called them by name, to remain with Him and to send them out preach,” the Holy Father said.
“Apostle, in fact, is a Greek word that means “one who is sent”, “envoy”. The Apostles were chosen, called and sent by Jesus to continue his work.”
The Holy Father went on to underline three aspects of the apostolic nature of the Catholic Church, the first being that the Church was founded on the basis of preaching and prayer of the Apostles. Citing St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the Pope stated that we as Christians are the “living stones” that form the Church, which is supported by the Apostles who are the columns and the cornerstone which is Christ.
“The Apostles lived with Jesus, they heard his words, they shared in his life, and above all were witnesses of his Death and Resurrection,” the Holy Father said. “Our faith, the Church that Christ wanted, is not founded on an idea, or on a philosophy, but on Christ Himself. And the Church is like a plant that has grown over the centuries, it has developed, it has borne fruit, but its roots are well-planted in Him and the fundamental experience of Christ that the Apostles, chosen and sent by Jesus, and now comes to us.”
The second aspect of the Church’s apostolic nature is its role, with the help of the Holy Spirit, “in keeping and handing on the teaching, the ‘good deposit,’ the salutary words she has heard from the apostles,” as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Church, he said, preserves this “precious treasure” consisting of the Sacred Scripture, doctrine, the Sacraments, the ministry of Pastors, all of which allows us to participate in the life of Christ.
“It is like a river that flows through history, it develops, it irrigates, but the water that flows is always that which comes from the source, from Christ Himself: He is the Risen One, the Living, and his words do not pass,” the Holy Father said.
The 76 year old Pontiff called on the faithful to contemplate on the importance of the gift that Christ has given us, the gift of the Church.
Speaking on the final aspect, the Holy Father said the Church is apostolic because it is sent to bring the Gospel to the whole world. Christ’s call to “make disciples of all nations” highlights this missionary aspect of the Church.
“Christ, the Pope said, invites us all to go meet with others, he sends us, he asks us to move ourselves to bring the joy of the Gospel!”
Concluding his address, the Holy Father stated that Church always looks towards the future with the clear indication that it is sent, that it is missionary.
“A Church that closes in on itself and stays in the past betrays its own identity,” the Pope said. “Now, let us all rediscover the beauty and the responsibility of being an apostolic Church.”