Pope Francis at the General Audience
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted pilgrims in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday for his General Audience. In his catechesis the Pope said the Church is on a continuing journey towards heaven.
Below is the English tranlation of the Pope’s catechesis at the Weekly General Audience.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The weather s not so great, but you are courageous, let us pray together today
in presenting the Church to the people of our time, the Second Vatican Council had in mind a fundamental truth, that we must never forget: the Church is not a static reality, an end in itself, but that she is continually journeying through history to the kingdom of heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and beginning (cf. Conc. Vatican Ecumenical Council. Vat. II, Const. Dogmatic Constitution. on the Church Lumen Gentium, 5). When we turn towards this horizon, we realize that our imagination comes to a halt, revealing itself to be barely capable of perceiving the splendor of the mystery which surpasses our senses. And some questions arise spontaneously in us: when will this final passage take place? What will the new dimension of the Church be like? What then will happen to humanity? And to the Creation that surrounds us? These questions are nothing new, the disciples at the time of Christ asked the same questions. They are ancient, human questions.
The conciliar Constitution Gaudium et spes, faced with these questions that always resonate in the human heart, says: “We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away; but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart”(n. 39). This is the goal toward which the Church projects itself: it is the “new Jerusalem”, “Paradise.” More than a place, it is a “state of being” in which our deepest expectations will be fulfilled in abundance and our being as creatures and as children of God, will reach full maturity. We will finally be covered with the joy, peace and love of God in a complete way, without any limitations, and we will be face to face with Him! (cf. 1 Cor 13:12). It’s lovely to think of this, to think we will all find ourselves up there! All of us in heaven. It’s good, it gives strength to our soul.
In this perspective, it is nice to hear that there is a continuity and a communion between the Church in heaven and the Church still journeying on earth. Those who already live in the sight of God can indeed support us and intercede for us, pray for us from heaven. On the other hand, we are always invited to offer good deeds, prayer and the Eucharist itself to alleviate the suffering of souls who are still waiting for the bliss without end. Yes, because in the Christian perspective, the distinction is not between those who are already dead and those who are not, but between those who are in Christ and those who are not! This is the determining factor, really decisive for our salvation and for our happiness.
3. At the same time, the Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us, and that came out of the thought and the heart of God. The Apostle Paul explicitly says as much, when he says that ” that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). Other texts use the image of the “new heaven” and the “new earth” (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21,1), in the sense that the whole universe will be renovated and will be liberated once and for all from all traces of evil and death itself. What lies ahead, as the fulfillment of a transformation that is actually already in place since the death and resurrection of Christ, is therefore a new creation. It is not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us, rather it brings everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty. This is the plan that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, always want to accomplish and is realizing.
Dear friends, when we think about these wonderful realities that await us, we realize how belonging to the Church truly is a wonderful gift, which calls us to the highest vocation! So let us ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, to watch over us on our journey and help us to be, like her, a joyful sign of trust and hope in the midst of our brothers.