Pope Francis stressed the familial nature of the Church at his Wednesday General Audience, emphasizing God’s desire to form a people through fatherly love. “To speak of the Church is to speak of our mother, of our family,” he said to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 18. He said the Church is not a private association or an NGO, and neither is the Church restricted to bishops, priests, and the Vatican. “We are all the Church,” he exclaimed. God plans “to form a people blessed by his love and able to bring his blessing to all populations on Earth. 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 looked to Abraham as an example of the “prehistory” of the Church. 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 Pope noted. It was not Abraham who gathered these people around him: rather, “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.” Pope Francis stressed the importance of 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.” At the same time, the Pope acknowledged that those called by God, like Abraham and his family, are not “always convinced and faithful.” Rather, they resist God, withdraw into themselves and their interests, and are tempted to bargain with God and try to solve problems on their 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.” God has this same attitude towards the Church, the Pope said. When we recognize ourselves as sinners, “God fills us with his mercy and his love.” “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.” “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.” Pope Francis then noted that June 20 is the World Day for Refugees, which remembers those forced to leave their homelands. “Millions of refugee families from many countries, of every religious faith, live through dramatic and painful events from which it is difficult for them to recover and heal. Let us be close to them, sharing their fears and uncertainty for the future, and alleviating their suffering in a concrete way.” He prayed that God will support those who “work generously” to welcome refugees and “give them reasons for hope.” He recalled that Jesus went to Egypt “as a refugee” when he fled for his life with St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. The Pope asked the faithful to work to support refugees and to say a Hail Mary for them, noting that Mary “knows the suffering of refugees.”
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