The Pope, in his general audience on Wednesday morning before a packed St Peter’s Square, told the gathered that the Church is a living body and that the body has a head which is Jesus who guides, supports and nourishes it. He encouraged people to overcome personal interests and divisions in order to understand each other better. He said that divisions are often caused by conflicts and this is not good because it separates us from each other and separates us from God. We must overcome these to love God and the people close to us more.
The Pope spoke again about the damage done by gossiping. This is a repeat of previous talks and homilies and is clearly a point the Holy Father wants us to take on board. Today he said “never gossip about others, never!”
The Pope then encouraged us all to pray for Christian unity.
Pope Francis, in his 19 June general audience told the many thousands gathered that the Church was a living body that had Jesus as its head and that it is Jesus who guides, feeds and supports it. He lamented the divisions within Christianity which he says “wounds this Body” and suggested “the Body must be united to survive”.
He talked about St Paul’s conversion and how St Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, developed the idea that the image of the body helps us to understand the deep Christ-Church bond. The Pope said, “First, the body brings our attention to living reality. The Church is not a charitable, cultural or political association, but a living body that lives and acts in history. And this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, feeds and supports it. This is a point I want to emphasise: if the head is separated from the rest of the body, the whole person cannot survive. So it is in the Church, we must remain bound ever more deeply to Jesus. But not only that: just as the body needs the lifeblood to keep it alive, so we must allow Jesus to work in us, that His Word guide us, that His presence in the Eucharist nourish us, animate us, that His love gives strength to our love of neighbour.”
The Pope continued, “Dear brothers and sisters, let us remain united to Jesus, let us trust in Him, direct our life according to His Gospel, nourish ourselves with daily prayer, listening to the Word of God, participation in the Sacraments.”
The Pope then turned back to St Paul, saying “St Paul says that as members of the human body, although different and many, we form one body, as we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body. In the Church, therefore, there is a variety, a diversity of tasks and functions, there is no dull uniformity, but the richness of the gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes. But there is communion and unity: we are all in a relation to each other and we all come together to form one living body, deeply connected to Christ….it means remaining united to the Pope and the Bishops who are instruments of unity and communion, and also means overcoming personal interests and divisions, in order to understand each other better, to harmonise the variety and richness of each member; in a word, to love God and the people who are next to us more, in the family, in the parish, in the associations.”
The Pope then spoke about times when parts of the body separate: “Conflicts, when they don’t end well, separate us from each other, they separate us from God. Conflict can help us to grow but can also divide us. We must not travel the path of division, of conflict among us, no we must all be united – with our differences – united because that is the path of Jesus! Unity is beyond all conflict. Unity is a grace that we must ask of the Lord so he may save us from the temptations of the division, from internal struggles and selfishness, from gossip. How much damage gossip does! How much damage! Never gossip about others, never!”
The Pope then referred to specific divisions among Christians: “Divisions among us, but also divisions among the communities: evangelical Christians, orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, but why divided? We must try to bring about unity. Let me tell you something, today, before leaving home, I spent 40 minutes more or less, half an hour, with an evangelical pastor. And we prayed together seeking unity. But we Catholic must pray with each other and other Christians. Pray that the Lord gifts us unity! Unity among ourselves!”
The Pope then suggested that Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit “to build unity”.