THE PEOPLE OF GOD,
SHOULD KEEP DOOR OPEN
|Vatican City, June 12, 2013 (Zenit.org)|
|Here is the translation of Pope Francis' address during his weekly General Audience held in St. Peter Square.|
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.
[Translation by Peter Waymel]