Vatican City, 18 June 2014 (VIS) – During this Wednesday's general audience Pope Francis began a new series of catechesis on the Church, “like a son who speaks about his mother, about his own family. The Church is not an institution that exists for its own ends, or a private association, an NGO; neither must she limit her view to the clergy or the Vatican. The Church is a far broader entity, open to all humanity, and not born unexpectedly. She was founded by Jesus but consists of a people with a long history behind them, prepared long before Christ Himself”.
“This story, or 'prehistory' of the Church, is already found in the pages of the Old Testament. According to the Book of Genesis, God chose Abraham … and asked him to leave his earthly homeland behind to go towards another land, that He would show to him. But God did not call upon Abraham alone, as an isolated individual, but instead from the very beginning He involved all of his family, his relatives and all those who served in his house. … The first important fact is this: starting with Abraham, God formed a people in order to bring His blessing to all families on earth. And Jesus was born within this population”.
The second element is that it was not Abraham who convoked the people around him. … Typically man sought the divine, seeking to bridge the distance and invoking support and protection. In this case, however, we see something unprecedented: it was God Himself Who took the initiative and addressed His word to man, creating a bond and a new relationship with him. In this way God constitutes a people of all those who listen to His word and who set out on their path, trusting in Him. This is the sole condition: trusting in God. If you place your trust in God, listen to Him and set out on His path, this means being a Church. God's love precedes everything … He precedes us. The prophet Jeremiah said that God was like the flower of the almond-tree, as it is the first tree that flowers in spring, meaning that God always flowers before us. When we arrive, He is already there waiting for us. … He is always there before us”.
“Abraham and his family listened to the call of God and set out on their way. … But this does not mean that they are always convinced and faithful. On the contrary, ever since the beginning there has been resistance, man has withdrawn into himself and his own interests, and has been tempted to bargain with God in order to solve problems on his own terms. There are the betrayals and sins that mark the path of the people throughout the history of salvation, which is the history of God's fidelity to His people, and the infidelity of the people of God. However, God never tires, He is patient and over time He continues to educate and form His people, like a father with his son. He maintains this same attitude with the Church”.
“Indeed, we too, in spite of our intention to follow the Lord Jesus, experience every day the selfishness and hardness of our hearts. However, when we recognise ourselves as sinners, God fills us with His mercy and His love. This is what enables us to grow as the people of God, as a Church; it is not our cleverness, our merits, but rather the daily experience of how much the Lord loves and cares for us. This is what makes us truly feel that we are His, that we are in His hands,and it enables us to grow in communion with Him and among ourselves. Being Church means having a sense of being in the hands of God, Who is our father and loves us, Who awaits us”.
The Pope underlined that this is God's plan: “to form a people blessed by His love and able to bring his blessing to all populations on earth. This project does not change, and is always in process. It found its culmination in Christ, and God continues to carry it out in the Church to this day. Let us then ask the grace to remain faithful in following the Lord Jesus and in listening to His Word, ready to set out every day, like Abraham, towards the land of God and man, our true homeland, and thus to become a blessing and sign of God's love for all His children”.
He added, “I like to think that a synonym, another way we could describe Christians is this: we are men and women, we are people who bless. The Christian, through his life, should always bless, should bless God and others. We Christians are people who bless, who know how to bless. It is a beautiful vocation”.