In a general audience at Saint Peter’s last summer, Pope Francis delivered what, in retrospect, looks like a summary of his whole pastoral approach, and a kind of manifesto for his papacy. What he presents here is a sort of getting back to basics, a de-cluttered evangelism emphasising that the true purpose of being a Christian is to move outwards – to receive the sanctifying love of God, and then pass it on. For if we jealously hold on to the blessings we have received in being able to know all the fullness of God through Jesus Christ and His Church, without sharing that knowledge with our neighbours, then we have to ask ourselves how much His love really is in us.
Unfortunately it is still necessary to add the proviso that this back-to-basics, off-the-cuff approach of Pope Francis’ is by no means at odds or in tension with the message of his predecessors. The address below contains not only the enthusiastic, outward-looking spirit of Francis himself, but the courage and hope of Blessed John Paul II – ‘God is stronger! Do you believe this, that God is stronger?’ – and the essential marriage of love to truth so important to and characteristic of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – ‘a love…that is not sterile sentimentality or something vague’.
The secular world is starting to wake up to what was already implicit in these early days of Francis’ papacy – his commitment to the hermeneutic of continuity, and the fact that he really is a ‘true son of the Church’. Thank God for the special gifts of each of our popes, and let us embrace what each has given us. Now, as we grow ever closer to the season of Lent, let us remember this particular message of our current pope – let us apply ourselves to repentance and renewal, so that we may better focus on and hope in Christ, and His transforming love may be poured more abundantly into our hearts. Only then may we truly become salt, light and leaven to the world:
‘What is the law of the People of God? It is the law of love, love for God and love for neighbour according to the new commandment that the Lord left to us (cf. Jn 13:34). It is a love, however, that is not sterile sentimentality or something vague, but the acknowledgment of God as the one Lord of life and, at the same time, the acceptance of the other as my true brother, overcoming division, rivalry, misunderstanding, selfishness; these two things go together.
What is this people’s mission? It is to bring the hope and salvation of God to the world: to be a sign of the love of God who calls everyone to friendship with Him; to be the leaven that makes the dough rise, the salt that gives flavour and preserves from corruption, to be a light that enlightens. Look around us — it is enough to open a newspaper, as I said — we see the presence of evil, the Devil is acting. However, I would like to say out loud: God is stronger! Do you believe this, that God is stronger? Let us say it together, let us say it all together: God is stronger! And do you know why he is stronger? Because He is Lord, the only Lord. And I would like to add that reality, at times dark and marked by evil, can change, if we first bring the light of the Gospel especially through our lives.
Dear brothers and sisters, being the Church, to be the People of God, in accordance with the Father’s great design of love, means to be the leaven of God in this humanity of ours. It means to proclaim and to bring the God’s salvation to this world of ours, so often led astray, in need of answers that give courage, hope and new vigour for the journey. May the Church be a place of God’s mercy and hope, where all feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged, the Church must be with doors wide open so that all may enter. And we must go out through these doors and proclaim the Gospel.’
General Audience of 12/06/2013