Vatican City, 24 April 2013 (VIS) – In the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican yesterday, the feast of St. George, the Holy Father presided at Mass with the cardinals resident in Rome, thanking them for their presence: “Thank you,” he said, “because I feel very well welcomed. I feel good with you and that pleases me.”
In the homily, Francis commented on the first reading of the day's liturgy that narrates the story of the first Christians who escaped persecution in Jerusalem, travelling to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, where they began to spread the Good News, among the Greeks as well. “At that moment when persecution breaks out,” the Pope said, “the Church's missionary activity breaks out.”
But in Jerusalem, they didn't understand how it was possible to preach to non-Jews. “A little nervous, they sent an Apostolic Visit, they sent Barnabas. Perhaps, a bit humorously,” Pope Francis explained, “we can say that this was the theological beginning of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this Apostolic Visit by Barnabas. He observed and he saw that things were going well. The Church thus is more a Mother: a Mother of more children, of many children. She becomes … more and more a Mother: a Mother who gives us faith, a Mother who gives us our identity. But our Christian identity is not an ID card. Christian identity is a belonging to the Church because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church, because finding Jesus outside of the Church is not possible. The great Paul VI said: it is an absurd dichotomy to want to live with Jesus but outside of the Church. And that Mother church who gives us Jesus gives us an identity that is not merely a seal; it is a belonging. Identity means belonging.”
The Pope then spoke of the three ideas that the story brought to his mind: the first was of the beginning of the mission, the second the Church as Mother, and the third the joy of the evangelizer that Barnabas feels when he see the immense crowd listening to the preaching. “Thus the Church advances … among the world's persecutions and the Lord's consolation. … If we want to travel the path or worldliness, negotiating with the world … we will never have the Lord's consolation. And, if we only seek his consolation, it will be a superficial one, … a human consolation. The Church always goes between the Cross and the Resurrection … This is the path. Whoever travels by this path will not be mistaken.”
“Let us think today of the Church's missionary activity: in those disciples … who have the courage to proclaim Jesus to the Greeks, something almost scandalous at that time. Let us think of the Mother church who grows, grows with new children to whom she fives the identity of faith because one cannot believe in Jesus without the Church. … and let us think of the consolation that Barnabas had, 'the sweet and consoling joy of evangelizing'. And let us ask the Lord … for this apostolic fervour, that urges us to go forward, as brothers and sisters, all of us: forward!. Let us go forward bearing Jesus' name at the heart of the Holy Mother Church.”
After the Eucharistic celebration, the Swiss Guard Musical Band offered the Pope a short concert in the Saint Damasus Courtyard, to wish him a happy saint's day.