Over 90,000 faithful from all over the world gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience. The slight drops of rain that fell did not stop Pope Francis from greeting the faithful while circling the square in the Popemobile.
The Holy Father expressed his wish to begin his catechesis on the mystery of the Church, a mystery he said “in which we all live and which we are a part of.”
Referring to the parable of the prodigal son, the Holy Father said the forgiveness of the father to his son is an indication of God’s plan with humanity.
“What is this plan of God?”, the Pope asked. “It is to make us all the one family of his children, in which each of you feels close to Him and feels loved by Him – feels, as in the Gospel parable, the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its source.”
Recalling the words of his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said that it is precisely God’s plan of love to humanity that is revealed in history. The Church, he continued, was born from God’s desire to call all people to be in communion with Him.
“The very word “Church”, from the Greek ekklesia, means ‘convocation’,” Pope Francis said. “God calls us, urges us to escape from individualism, [from] the tendency to withdraw into ourselves, and calls us – convokes us – to be a part of His family. This convocation has its origin in creation itself. God created us in order that we might live in a relationship of deep friendship with Him, and even when sin had broken this relationship with God, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us.”
Pope Francis told the faithful gathered that this communion with God was present in the Gospels where Jesus gathered a small community that accepted His Word and thus building the Church.
“Whence, then, is the Church born? It is born from the supreme act of love on the Cross, from the pierced side of Jesus from which flow blood and water, a symbol of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist,” the Pope said. “ In the family of God, the Church, the lifeblood is the love of God that is realised in loving Him and others, loving all without distinction, without measure. The Church is a family that loves and is loved.”
A Grand Design of Love
Contemplating on the Church’s presence in today’s world, Pope Francis stated that the Church manifests itself when the gift of the Holy Spirit fills the heart of the faithful, just as with the Apostles on Pentecost. The spirit, he said, “pushes them to go out and start the journey to proclaim the Gospel, to spread the love of God.”
“Even today, some say, “Christ yes, the Church no,” like those who say, “I believe in God, but in priests, no.” They say, “Christ: yes. Church: no.” Nevertheless, it is the Church that brings us Christ and that brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God’s children.”
Of course it also has the human aspects,” the Holy Father continued,” in those who compose it, pastors and faithful, there are flaws, imperfections, sins – the Pope has his, as well: he has lots of them; but the beautiful thing is that, when we become aware that we are sinners, we find the mercy of God.”
“God always forgives: do not forget this. God always forgives, and He receives us in His love of forgiveness and mercy. Some people say – this is beautiful – that sin is an offence against God, but it is also an opportunity: the humiliation of realising [that one is a sinner] and that there is something [exceedingly] beautiful: the mercy of God. Let us think about this.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis invited faithful to live the gift of faith as it is intended: to be lived together as a family, as a Church.
“We ask the Lord, in a special way in this Year of the faith, that our communities, the whole Church be ever more true families that live and carry the warmth of God.”