Pope Francis urged thousands of pilgrims gathered on St Peter’s Square this morning to recognise that we are a Church of sinners but that we must not be afraid of holiness.
“Do not be afraid to aim for holiness and turn yourselves over to the love of God. Holiness does not mean performing extraordinary things but carrying out daily things in an extraordinary way – that is, with love, joy and faith,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis asked in what sense could the Church be holy if we look at its 2,000 year history and its trials, problems and moments of darkness. “But how can a Church made up of human beings, of sinners, be holy?”
Referring to St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5: 25-26), he said that it is Christ’s love for the Church and his sacrifice that renders the Church holy. The reasons, he continues, are three-fold: firstly, the Church is faithful to God, who does not abandon it to the “powers of death and evil”; secondly, because it is “united in an everlasting way to Jesus Christ”; and thirdly because it is led by the Holy Spirit “who purifies, transforms and renews it”. “We do not make the Church holy,” he said. “God, the Holy Spirit, does.”
The Church is not without sin because it is made up of sinners. Priests, sisters, bishops, cardinals and even Popes are sinners. Pope Francis warned us not to believe the misconception that the Church is filled only with the “pure” and that all others are to be “removed”. “This is not true!” he exclaimed. “This is heresy!”
He concluded by recalling the parable of the prodigal son, reminding us that God waits for us with open arms and celebrates when we return. God wants us to be a part of a Church that opens its doors to everyone so they may find God’s tender mercy and forgiveness. “Every Christian is called to holiness.”