Everyone is responsible for building up the Body of Christ, Francis says
“Often, we hear people say: the Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!’ ‘Tell me who is the Church? – ‘The priests, the bishops, and the Pope are…’. We are all the Church! All of us who are baptized are the Church, the Church of Jesus.’”
This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis’ Wednesday general uudience, which he dedicated to the relationship between the visible and spiritual reality of the Church.
The Pope observed that the Church represents the Body of Jesus, and that its visible dimension — i.e., the structures and people who make up the Church — are at the service of its spiritual reality, witnessing to God’s love for all mankind.
He underlined that the visible Church is not comprised only of the priests, bishops or popes. It is made up of baptized men and women all over the world who carry out countless acts of love. Families who are firm in the faith, parents who give their all to transmit the faith to their children, the sick who offer their suffering to the Lord.
Pope Francis noted that often, as a Church, we experience our fragility and limitations which rightly provoke profound displeasure, especially when we give bad example and become a source of scandal, “because people go by our witness” as Christians.
“Through her sacraments and her witness to Christ in our world, the Church seeks to proclaim and bring God’s merciful love to all, particularly the poor and those in need.”
Here is a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the previous catechesis we highlighted how the Church is spiritual in nature: it is the Body of Christ, built in the Holy Spirit. When we refer to the Church, however, our thoughts turn immediately to our communities, our parishes, our diocese, to the structures in which we usually gather together and of course to the more institutional component and figures which guide and govern it. This is the visible reality of the Church. We must ask, then: Are they two different things, or the One Church? And, if it is the One Church, how can we understand the relationship between its visible and spiritual reality?
1. First, when we speak of the visible reality of the Church, we must not think only of the pope, bishops, priests and consecrated persons. The visible reality of the Church is made up of the many baptized brothers and sisters around the world who believe, hope and love. Often, we hear people say: "The Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!" Tell me who is the Church? – "The priests, the bishops, and the pope are…" We are all the Church! All of us who are baptized are the Church, the Church of Jesus. Beginning with all of those who follow the Lord Jesus and, in His name, are close to the poor and the suffering, trying to offer some relief, comfort and peace. Everyone who does these things, which the Lord sent us to do, are the Church. Thus we understand that the visible reality of the Church cannot be measured, it cannot be known in all its fullness: how can one know of all the good that is done? [Moving from the prepared text ] So many acts of love, so much faithfulness in families, so much work in educating children, to carry on, to transmit the faith, so much suffering in the sick who offer their suffering to the Lord. We cannot measure this! It is so great, so great! How can one know of all the wonderful things that, through us, Christ is able to operate in the hearts and lives of each person? You see: the reality of the visible Church goes beyond our control, beyond our strength, and it is a mysterious reality because it comes from God.