“The ideal of the Church is to be always with the people, with the Sacraments. Always.”
Today, I would like us to pray for women who are pregnant — pregnant women who will become mothers and are worried, concerned. A question: ‘What type of world will my child live in?’ Let us pray for them, that the Lord would give them the courage to keep going with their children, with the confidence that certainly the world will be different, but it will always be a world that the Lord loves so much.
This was the Holy Father’s intention for the morning Mass of April 17.
His homily focused on how the Apostles grew in their closeness and familiarity with the Lord, seen for example, in the way that Peter goes from “depart from me, for I am a sinful man” to diving into the water to reach Jesus on the beach when he appeared in the days and weeks after the Resurrection.
This time [Peter] doesn’t say anything; he is more natural. No one asks, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord, the encounter with the Lord was natural. The familiarity of the apostles [with him] had grown.
We Christians, as well, in our path of life, are in this state of walking, of progressing in familiarity with the Lord.
However, Pope Francis clarified, this familiarity is “always communitarian.”
Yes, it’s intimate, it’s personal, but in community. A familiarity without community, a familiarity without bread, a familiarity without the Church, without the people, without the sacraments, is dangerous. It can become, we could say, a “gnostic” familiarity, a familiarity just for me, separated from the people of God. The familiarity of the Apostles with the Lord was always communitarian, always at the table, a sign of community. Always with the Sacrament, with the bread.
The pope said he mentioned this point especially because of the challenging time we are living, when the pandemic has made even our religious interactions become through the internet.
Speaking to the tiny congregation at the Santa Marta chapel, he noted that they would receive the Eucharist, “but the people who are connected with us [through media] will have only Spiritual Communion. And this is not the Church. It is the Church in a difficult situation, which the Lord permits, but the ideal of the Church is to be always with the people, with the Sacraments. Always.”
Before Easter, when the news went out that I would celebrate Easter in an empty St. Peter’s, a bishop wrote me — a good bishop, good — and he scolded me: “But why if St. Peter’s is so big, they don’t have at least 30 people, so that the people can be seen? There wouldn’t be any danger …” I thought, “What is he considering, to tell me this?” I didn’t understand in that moment. But as he is a good bishop, very close to the people, he wanted to tell me something. When I saw him next, I asked him. Then I understood. He said, “Be careful not to ‘virtualize’ the Church, not to ‘virtualize’ the Sacraments, not to ‘virtualize’ the People of God.” The Church, the Sacraments, the People of God are concrete.
It’s true that right now, we should build this familiarity with the Lord in this way … but in order to get through the tunnel, not to stay here.
And this is the familiarity of the Apostles: not gnostic, not virtualized, not egotistical for each one of themselves, but rather a concrete familiarity, with the people. Familiarity with the Lord in daily life, familiarity with the Lord in the Sacraments, in the midst of the People of God.
They traveled a path of maturing in familiarity with the Lord: Let us learn to do this as well. From the first moment, they understood that this familiarity was different than what they imagined, and they arrived to it. They knew it was the Lord, and they shared everything: community, the Sacraments, the Lord, peace, celebration.
May the Lord teach us this intimacy with Him, this familiarity with Him, but in the Church, with the Sacraments, with the faithful People of God.