The Church’s ideal is to be with the people, pope says

With millions of Catholics dependent on livestreamed Masses, there is a danger that we will lose sight of the communal dimension of Christian life, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass today. 

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading (John 21:1-14), in which the risen Christ invites his disciples to eat breakfast, the pope said April 16 that all Christians should seek a “daily familiarity with the Lord.”

This familiarity, he said, is always communal in nature.

“Yes, it is intimate, it is personal but in community,” he explained. “A familiarity without community, a familiarity without bread, a familiarity without the Church, without the people, without the sacraments is dangerous.”

“It can become a familiarity — let us say — gnostic, a familiarity for me alone, detached from the people of God.”

Speaking from the chapel of his Vatican residence, Casa Santa Marta, the pope said that a “good” bishop had written to him, “scolding” him for celebrating Easter in a deserted St. Peter’s Basilica. The bishop argued that at least 30 people could have attended without risk of spreading the coronavirus. 

“Be careful not to ‘viralize’ the Church, not to ‘viralize’ the sacraments, not to ‘viralize’ the People of God,” he told the pope.

Pope Francis commented: “The Church, the sacraments, the People of God are concrete. It is true that at this moment we must make this familiarity with the Lord in this way [through the TV or internet], but to get out of the tunnel, not to stay there.” 

The pope said he did not immediately understand the bishop’s warning. But later he realized that the bishop had identified a danger in the present moment, in which churches are closed and Catholics are unable to receive the Eucharist. 

“This is the Church of a difficult situation, which the Lord allows,” he observed, “but the idea of the Church is always with the people and with the sacraments. Always.”

The pope urged Catholics to follow the disciples in seeking familiarity with Jesus. 

“And this is the familiarity of the apostles: not gnostic, not ‘viralized,’ not selfish, but a concrete familiarity, in the people. Familiarity with the Lord in daily life, familiarity with the Lord in the sacraments, in the midst of the People of God.” 

After Mass, the pope presided at adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, before leading those watching via livestream in a prayer of spiritual communion.

Finally, the small congregation sang the Easter Marian antiphon “Regina caeli.”

At the start of the Mass, the pope asked Catholics to pray for expectant mothers who were worried about what kind of world their children would grow up in.

He said: “Let us pray for them, that the Lord will give them the courage to carry these children forward with the confidence that it will certainly be a different world, but it will always be a world that the Lord will love so much.”