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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE CHURCH, THE PEOPLE OF GOD, SHOULD KEEP DOOR OPEN

Vatican City, 12 June 2013 (VIS) – The Church, defined in Vatican Council II as the People of God, was the topic of Pope Francis' catechesis during the Wednesday general audience. The Holy Father explained the concept of the People of God through a series of questions: “What does it mean to be the People of God? How does one become a member of this people? What is its law, its mission, and its goal?”

To be the People of God, the Bishop of Rome said, “first of all means that God doesn't belong to any particular people because He is the one who calls us … and this invitation is addressed to all, without distinction, because God's mercy 'wills everyone to be saved'. Jesus doesn't tell the Apostles and us to form an exclusive group of elite members. Jesus says: 'Go and make disciples of all nations'. … I would also like to say to whoever feels far from God and from the Church, to whoever is timorous or indifferent, to whoever thinks they are no longer able to change: the Lord also calls you to be part of his people and He does so with great respect and love!” A person becomes part of this people “not through physical birth, but by a new birth … Baptism … through faith in Christ, God's gift that must be nourished and made to grow throughout our lives.”

What is the law of the people of God? “It is the law of love, love for God and love for neighbour … which isn't a sterile sentimentalism or something vague, but is the recognition of God as the one Lord of life and, at the same time, welcoming others as true brothers and sisters … the two go hand in hand. How much further must we still journey to live this new law concretely? … When we look in the newspapers or on TV there are so many wars between Christians; how can this happen? Within the people of God, so many wars! In neighbourhoods, at work, how many wars for envy and jealousy! Even in the same family, how many internal wars! We must ask the Lord to help us understand this law of love. How beautiful it is to love one another as true brothers and sisters. Let's do this today. Maybe we all have the people we like and [those we] dislike. Perhaps many of us are a little upset with someone. So let's say to the Lord: 'Lord, I am angry with this person or that one. I will pray to you for him and for her.' Praying for those we are angry with is a good step in this law of love. Shall we do it? Let's do it today!”

This people's mission,” the Pope continued, “to to bring God's hope and salvation to the world: to be a sign of the love of God who calls all to friendship with him … It is enough to open a newspaper to see that the presence of evil is around us, that the Devil is at work. But I want to say out loud: God is stronger! … Let's all say it together … God is stronger! And I want to add that reality, which at times is dark and marked by evil, can change if we first bring to it the light of the Gospel, above all with our lives. If, in a stadium … on a dark night, one person lights a light, it can barely be seen. But, if over 70,000 spectators each light their own light, then the stadium lights up. Let us make our lives the light of Christ. Together we will bring the light of the Gospel to all of reality.”

The goal of this people is “God's kingdom, begun on earth by God himself, and which must be further extended until it is brought to perfection, when Christ, our life, shall appear. The objective [of the people of God], therefore, is full communion with the Lord, familiarity with him, entering into the divine life itself, into his family, where we will live the joy of his boundless love.”

Being the Church, being the people of God,” Francis concluded, “... means being God's leaven in this our humanity. It means proclaiming and bearing God's salvation in this our world, which is often lost and needful of having encouraging answers, answers that give hope, that give new energy along the journey. May the Church be the place of God's mercy and love, where everyone can feel themselves welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And in order to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged, the Church must have open doors so that all might enter. And we must go out of those doors and proclaim the Gospel”

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