Pope urges Christian communities to be ones of peace

Pope Francis prays during his general audience on September 25, 2013 Credit: Elise Harris/CNA

Returning to his usual daily Mass schedule, Pope Francis reflected today that our contemporary faith communities ought to reflect that of the first Christians, who were united in “heart and mind.”

“They had one heart and mind,” the Pope said in his April 29 daily Mass, quoting the day’s first reading, emphasizing that they were a “community in peace.”

Taking his launching point from the day’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles describing how the first Christians lived, the pontiff focused on the entire first week of Easter, during which the Church brings light to our “rebirth from on high.”

Addressing those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, he explained that this rebirth came from the Holy Spirit, who gave the first group of “new Christians” life when “they still didn’t bear that name.”

Highlighting how this very first community of Christians was one of “peace” and “forgiveness” where “Love covered everything,” the Pope expressed that “in this community there was no room for gossip, envy, calumnies, defamation.”

“Peace,” he repeated, observing that in order to “qualify” a Christian community on these characteristics, “we have to ask about the attitude of the Christians.”

“Are they meek, humble? Do they vie for power between each other in that community? Are there envious quarrels? Is there gossip?” the Roman Pontiff asked, emphasizing that these “are not on the path of Jesus Christ.”

“This feature is so important, so important, because the devil always tries to divide us. He is the father of division.”

However, although the first community of Christians existed in such harmony, this does not mean that they did not have problems, the Pope went on to say, recalling “the infighting, the doctrinal struggles, power struggles” that evolved later.

Giving an example, Pope Francis pointed out how the widows complained about there being a lack of assistance, so the apostles “had to create deacons,” but that the “high point” of their beginnings has fixed the essence of all Christian communities as being born of the Holy Spirit.

Naming a second characteristic of a Christian community, the pontiff expressed that in addition to being harmonious, they are also communities full of witnesses to the faith, and invited attendees to reflect on the state of their own groups.

“Does this community give witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does this parish, this community, this diocese really believe that Jesus Christ is Risen?” he questioned, “Or rather: ‘Yes, He is Risen, but only here,’ because they only believe here, in their hearts far removed from this force.”

It is “by how we bear witness that Jesus is alive, that He is among us” that “we verify the life of a community,” he noted.

Another way we can distinguish a true Christian community is by “the poor,” the Bishop of Rome observed, asking those present first of all “what's your attitude or the attitude of this community toward the poor?” and secondly “is this community poor?”

Is our community “poor in heart, poor in spirit? Or does it place its trust in riches? In power?” the Pope continued, highlighting that Christian communities are measured by “harmony, witness, poverty and care for the poor.”

“This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus: This comes from above. Because the only one who can do this is the Holy Spirit. This is the work of the Spirit,” he stated, expressing that “The Church is built up by the Spirit” who “creates unity” and “leads us to witness.”

“The Spirit makes us poor, because He is our wealth and leads us to care for the poor.”

Concluding, Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit would help all “to walk on this path reborn through the power of Baptism.”


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

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April 25, 2015

  • Saturday, April 25

    Super Groovy 5K Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys. Sponsored by St. Euphrasia School, this year’s “Super Groovy” theme celebrates the school’s 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964 and serves as a tribute to that nostalgic era of peace and love — the 60’s. At the finish line, all runners and walkers will be puffed with clouds of psychodelic color. Registration $25-$40. For more information, contact Susie Sempelsz, (818) 488-1598. info@knights5k.org.

    5th Annual Car Show, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Junipero Serra High School, 14830 S Van Ness Ave., Gardena. Featuring classics, hot rods, and muscle cars as well as food, music, vendors and raffles. (310) 324-6675. la-serrahs.org.

    Challenge Weekend for Men, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Povorello Retreat House, 1519 Woodworth St., San Fernando. Presented by St. John Eudes and Our Lady of Grace Men’s Fellowships. Men will not board overnight; lunch is provided both days. $90 or donation. Register at knowingweekend.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Fred Perez, (818) 749-5126.

    First Annual Sacred Heart High School Gala, 5 p.m., Los Angeles City College New Student Activities Center, 855 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event, themed “United to Empower,” will benefit the Comet Scholarship Fund.



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