The Vatican (Wednesday, 9 September 2015, Gaudium Press) – The relationship between the family and the Christian community, “a ‘natural’ bond, since the Church is a spiritual family and the family is a small Church”, was the theme chosen by the Pope for the catechesis of today’s Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The Christian community is the home of those who believe in Jesus as the source of fraternity between all humanity. The Church journeys among peoples, in the history of men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. “This is the history that matters to the Lord”, explained the Pope. “The great events of world powers are written in history books, and stay there. But the history of human affections is inscribed directly on God’s heart, and it is the history that remains for eternity. It is the place of life and faith. The family is the locus of our initiation – irreplaceable, indelible – into this history of full life that culminates in the contemplation of God for all eternity in heaven, but begins in the family”.
“The son of God also learned human history in this way, and experienced it to its end. … Then, when he left Nazareth and began his public life, Jesus formed a community around him, an ‘assembly’, a convocation of people. This is the meaning of the word ‘church'”.
In the Gospels, Jesus’ assembly has the form of “a hospitable family, not an exclusive closed sect”. Pope Francis observed, “we find Peter and with John, but also the hungry and the thirsty, the outsider and the persecuted, the sinner and the publican, the Pharisees and the masses. And Jesus never ceases to welcome them all and to speak with them, including those who did not expect to encounter God in their lives. It is a powerful lesson for the Church! The same disciples were chosen to take care of this assembly, of this family invited by God”.
In order to continue to experience the reality of Jesus’ assembly, “it is essential to revive the alliance between the family and the Christian community”, he affirmed. “We could say that the family and the parish are the two places in which the communion of love that finds its ultimate source in God Himself is realised. A true Church according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with open doors, always. Churches, parishes and institutions with closed doors cannot call themselves churches – they should call themselves museums”.
“Today this alliance is crucial. Against the centres of power – ideological, financial and political, we posit our experiences in these centres of love: evangelising, full of human warmth, based on solidarity and participation, and also mutual forgiveness. Certainly, it requires a generous faith to find the intelligence and the courage to renew this alliance. Families at times pull back, saying that they are not up to the challenge. … But no-one is! … Without God’s grace, we cannot do anything. And the Lord never arrives in a new family without some kind of miracle. Let us remember what He did at the wedding in Cana. Yes, the Lord, if we place ourselves in His hands, makes us perform miracles: these everyday miracles, when the Lord is there, in the family”.
“Naturally the Christian community must play its part. For instance … favouring interpersonal dialogue, and mutual understanding and respect. May families take the initiative and be conscious of their responsibility to bring their precious gifts to the community!” exclaimed the Pope. “We must all be aware that Christian faith plays on the open field of life shared with all, and the family and parish must perform the miracle of achieving a more community-based life for the whole of society”.
After the catechesis, in his greetings to various groups of faithful, the Pope remarked that today the Church celebrates the liturgical memory of the Jesuit St. Peter Claver, patron of the missions in Africa, and expressed his hope that the saint’s example, with his tireless service to the weakest, impels the young to choose solidarity with the needy. “May his spiritual vigour help the sick to carry the cross with courage, and his love for Christ be a model for newly-weds of the love that should occupy the centre of the family”, added the Holy Father.