Apart From the Church,
It Is Not Possible to Find Jesus
“Following Jesus means belonging to the church, the community that gives Christians their identity, Pope Francis said. “Apart from the church it is not possible to find Jesus,” he said in a homily April 23. “The great Paul VI said: It is an absurd dichotomy to wish to live with Jesus but without the church, to follow Jesus but without the church, to love Jesus but without the church.” Dozens of cardinals living in Rome or visiting the Vatican joined the pope in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace for the Mass on the feast of St. George, the martyr. The feast is the pope’s name day; he was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio. In his homily, Pope Francis spoke about the persecution of the first Christian communities and how opposition did not stop them from sharing their faith in Christ, but went hand in hand with even greater missionary activity. “At the very moment when persecution broke out, the church’s
missionary nature also ‘broke out,'” the pope said. When the first Christians began sharing the Gospel with the Greeks and not just other Jews, it was something completely new and made some of the apostles “a little nervous,” the pope said. They sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on the situation, a kind of “apostolic visitation,” he said. “Perhaps, with a touch of humor, we can say that this was the theological origin of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The pope spoke in Italian; a Vatican translation of his homily follows, copyright © 2013 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana.”
“I thank His Eminence, the cardinal dean, for his words: Thank you, Your Eminence, many thanks.
I also thank those of you who came today. Thank you! Because I feel warmly welcomed by you. Thank you! I feel at home with you and that pleases me. Today’s first reading makes me think that at the very moment when persecution broke out, the church’s missionary nature also “broke out.” These Christians went all the way to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch and proclaimed the word (cf. Acts 11:19). They had this apostolic fervor in their hearts; and so the faith spread! Some people from Cyprus and Cyrene, not these but others who had become Christians, came to Antioch and began to speak also to the Greeks (cf. Acts 11:20).
This is yet another step. And, so the church moves forward. Who took this initiative of speaking to the Greeks, something unheard of, since they were preaching only to Jews? It was the Holy Spirit, the one who was pushing them on, on and on, unceasingly. But back in Jerusalem, when somebody heard about this, he got a little nervous and they sent an apostolic visitation: They sent Barnabas (cf. Acts 11:22).
Perhaps, with a touch of humor, we can say that this was the theological origin of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visitation of Barnabas. He took a look and saw that things were going well (cf. Acts 11:23).
If we want to take the path of worldliness, bargaining with the world … we will never have the consolation of the Lord.
And in this way the church is increasingly a mother, a mother of many, many children: She becomes a mother, ever more fully a mother, a mother who gives us faith, a mother who gives us our identity. But Christian identity is not an identity card. Christian identity means being a member of the church, since all these people belonged to the church, to mother church, for apart from the church it is not possible to find Jesus.
The great Paul VI said: It is an absurd dichotomy to wish to live with Jesus but without the church, to follow Jesus but without the church, to love Jesus but without the church (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). And that mother church who gives us Jesus also gives us an identity that is not simply a rubber stamp: It is membership. Identity means membership, belonging. Belonging to the church: This is beautiful! The third idea that comes to my mind ? the first was the outbreak of the church’s missionary nature and second the church as mother ? is that, when Barnabas saw that crowd, the text says, “and a great many people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24), when he saw that crowd, he rejoiced. “When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced” (Acts 11:23). It is the special joy of the evangelizer.
It is, as Paul VI said, “the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). This joy begins with persecution, with great sadness and ends in joy. And so the church moves forward, as a saint tells us, amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of the Lord (cf. St. Augustine,
De Civitate Dei, 18:51, 2: PL 41, 614).
This is the life of the church. If we want to take the path of worldliness, bargaining with the world ? as the Maccabees were tempted to do back then ? we will never have the consolation of the Lord. And if we seek consolation alone, it will be a superficial consolation, not the Lord’s consolation, but a human consolation. The church always advances between the cross and the resurrection, between persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. This is the path: Those who take this path do not go wrong.
Today let us think about the missionary nature of the church: these disciples who took the initiative to go forth and those who had the courage to proclaim Jesus to the Greeks, something that at that time was almost scandalous (cf. Acts 11;19-20). Let us think of mother church, who is increasing, growing with new children to whom she gives the identity of faith, for one cannot believe in Jesus without the church. Jesus himself says so in the Gospel: But you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep (cf. Jn 10:26).
Unless we are “Jesus’ sheep,” faith does not come; it is a faith that is watered down, insubstantial. And let us think of the consolation Barnabas experienced, which was precisely the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing.” Let us ask the Lord for this parrhesia, this apostolic fervor that impels us to move
forward as brothers and sisters, all of us: forward! Forward, bearing the name of Jesus in the bosom of holy mother church, as St. Ignatius said, hierarchical and Catholic. Amen.”
“The biggest threat to the church is worldliness, Pope Francis said in his daily morning Mass homily. A worldly church becomes weak, and while people of faith can look after the church, only God “can look evil in the eye and overpower it,” he said April 30. The pope celebrated the Mass with members of the Vatican’s investment agency in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthas. The day’s reading from the Gospel of St. John recounts Jesus telling his disciples, “I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming;” but Satan “has no power over me.”
The pope said, “If we don’t want the prince of this world to take the church in his hands, we have to entrust her to the only one who can defeat the prince of this world. Entrusting the church to the Lord is a prayer that makes the church grow” and is an act of faith because “we can do nothing. All of us are poor servants of the church,” he said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres officially invited Pope Francis to Israel, telling the pope “the sooner you visit the better, as in these days a new opportunity is being created for peace, and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace.”
The Israeli president’s remarks were reported in a statement released by the Israeli Embassy to the Vatican after Peres met Pope Francis April 30. The statement said Peres told Pope Francis about efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, mentioning specifically the meeting April 29 in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of the Arab League.
Peres also told the pope that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “is a genuine partner for peace,” the statement said. Peres left the meeting at the Vatican telling the pope, “I am expecting you in Jerusalem and not just me, but all the people of Israel.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters, “The pope would be happy to go to the Holy Land,” although there are no concrete plans for the trip. The Vatican said that during their half-hour private conversation, the pope and the president discussed “the political and social situation in the Middle East, where more than a few conflicts persist.” Going to confession isn’t like heading off to be tortured or punished, nor is it like going to the dry cleaners to get out a stain, Pope Francis said in a morning Mass homily. “It’s an encounter with Jesus” who is patiently waiting “and takes us as we are,” offering penitents his tender mercy and forgiveness, he said April 29.
Members of the Vatican’s investment agency and a group of religious women joined the pope for the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all,” the pope said, quoting from the First Letter of John.
While everyone experiences moments of darkness in life, the verse refers to the darkness of living in error, “being satisfied with oneself, being convinced of not needing salvation,” he said. As John continues, the pope said, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” People have to start out with the humility of realizing “we are all sinners, all of us, “he said.”