On the People of God
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Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address during his weekly General Audience held in St. Peter’s Square today.
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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.
[Translation by Peter Waymel]
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.
Pope Francis (in Italian):
I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Malta, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the United States. May your stay in the Eternal City confirm you in love for our Lord and his Church. God bless you all!
© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the newly-ordained priests of the Diocese of Brescia, accompanied by their families, as well as the community of the Seminary of Naples, invoking the Lord's continued assistance, so that everyone may answer their call faithfully. I greet the pilgrimage of the Diocese of Assisi - Nocera Umbra - Gualdo Tadino, led by Archbishop Mons. Domenico Sorrentino. An affectionate thought goes to representatives of Agricultural Confederation of Bisceglie, thanking them for their welcome gift, destined to the charitable works of the Pope. I greet, then, the faithful of the parishes, associations and various groups that are so numerous at this meeting. Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and newlyweds.
For all I wish that you may experience the comforting presence of the Lord and be, in everyday life, instruments of his merciful love.
Today we celebrate worldwide the World Day Against Child Labor, with particular reference to the exploitation of children in domestic work: a disgraceful phenomenon that is constantly increasing, particularly in poor countries. There are millions of children, mostly baby girls, who are victims of this hidden form of exploitation that often leads to abuse, ill-treatment and discrimination.
I very much hope that the international community can initiate even more effective measures in addressing this real plague. All children should be able to play, study, pray and grow, in their own families, in a harmonic context, of love and serenity. It is their right and our duty. A serene childhood allows children to look towards life and the future with confidence. Woe unto those who suffocate their joyous momentum of hope!
[Translation by Peter Waymel]