Today’s blog features Fr. Michael Schleupner’s continuation of the Pope Francis series. Although many of us cannot gather in our churches right now, we hope that you feel the community of believers around you and maybe you can even reach out to members of your community today.

Pope Francis – 2    

Dear Friends,chuches closed during pandemic

Pope Francis emphasizes faith as a “personal encounter with Jesus Christ.” He is also very clear that this encounter is made possible through the faith community, the Church. Without the Church, we could become quite narrow and even self-focused. The Church opens us to a fuller image of God and fuller understanding of our ourselves and our relationship with God.

 “The originality [of the Christian faith] lies precisely in the fact that the faith makes us participate, in Jesus, in the relationship that He has with God who is Abba, and in this light, the relationship that he has with all other[s], including enemies, in the sign of love…The singularity of Jesus is for communication, not for exclusion.”     

Pope Francis approaches all human beings with this openness that reaches out and includes.

“The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.”

This is the way, in the twentieth-first century, of sharing God’s love with others and of drawing them to a community of faith. To do this, bishops and we priests are wise to follow Francis’ description of our role as shepherd.

“…he will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and – above all – allowing the flock to strike out on new paths.”  

Finally, in all of this, the Eucharist is central.

Again, as Francis says: “In the Eucharist, the one true God receives the greatest worship the world can give him, for it is Christ himself who is offered. When we receive him in Holy Communion, we renew our covenant with him and allow him to carry out ever more fully his work of transforming our lives.”

I repeat what I said at the end of last week’s column: I find great inspiration and motivation for ministry in Francis’ vision. More next week!

~Father Michael Schleupner

(Quotations above from: A letter to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, 2013; Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013; Gaudete et Exsultate, Rejoice and be Glad, 2018)