It is erroneous to think that humanity can have Jesus Christ without the Catholic Church, and God’s plan for humanity includes and is intimately connected with the Church, Pope Francis taught today as part of a new series of reflections that he is beginning during his weekly Wednesday General Audiences. Pope Francis ended the series of reflections on the Creed begun by his predecessor Benedict XVI last week, and this week began his own Wednesday series of undetermined length centered around the Church, its nature, and its importance in the plan of salvation. The Holy Father reminded the nearly 90,000 pilgrims gathered in a rainy St. Peter’s Square that “it is the Church that brings us Christ.”
“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,” the Holy Father taught. “Of course,” the Pope said, “the Church also has the human aspects: 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.”
Francis referenced the parable of the Prodigal Son in pointing out the purpose of the Church, saying that the Church exists “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.” The Pope reminded the pilgrims of the source of the Church’s foundation. “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. In the family of God, the Church, the lifeblood is the love of God that is realized in loving him and others, loving all without distinction, without measure. The Church is a family that loves and is loved,” taught the Holy Father.
Francis was also keen to remind pilgrims what the Church is not, saying that she is not “an organization founded by an agreement among (a group of) persons, but – as we were reminded many times by Pope Benedict XVI – it is the work of God: it was born out of the plan of love, which realizes itself progressively in history.” The Pope challenged his listeners to view themselves as part of the Body of Christ in the Church and to do their part to make the Church grow. “Let us ask ourselves today: how much do I love the Church? Do I pray for her? Do I feel myself a part of the family of the Church? What do I do to make the Church a community in which everyone feels welcomed and understood, (in which) everyone feels the mercy and love of God who renews life?”