Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“The Church is alive!” These words, which Pope Benedict used to summarize his feelings as he left the Chair of St. Peter, have echoed, echoed very loudly, in my heart as I, like you, have lived through the election of Pope Francis. “The Church is, indeed, very much alive.”
How could I not affirm that the Church is alive, after watching that sea of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to greet the new Pope. Yes, the Church is alive, alive in the hearts of the young and the old in that crowd waiting the “guadium magnum,”the good news about who had been elected Bishop of Rome. (And who could not have been impressed by how many in that crowd were young?)
How could I fail to recognize that the Church is alive, after seeing the love Pope Francis expressed for the crowd in the Square, love for his new flock in Rome, and for us all wherever we live? Yes, the Church is alive in the heart and soul of our new Holy Father, as he embraces all of his sons and daughters.
How could I miss the fact that the Church is alive, when Holy Father devoted his very first homily to preaching Christ, “and him crucified”? Yes, the Church is alive in giving living witness to the love of Jesus for us to the end.
Our experiences of over these last weeks confirm for me that God is with his Church, acting within her with undiminished vitality. While the Church has existed in the world for over twenty centuries, she is not old, not an antique, not a relic. She grows younger as the years roll by. She is alive with the vigor not her own. Were the Church to possess only natural resources, she would have expired long ago. No, her life-force is the “Lord and Giver of Life,” the Holy Spirit, the Spirit breathed out upon her by the Lord Jesus on the night of his resurrection.
This conviction that Church is alive, which has struck me with such force in the process of Pope Francis’s election, moves me to single out, from among all the things I could mention to you, this request: Lay hold of the grace of this time! Embrace this moment to begin again your journey with Christ! Join with all the members of the Church in drinking from the real “fountain of youth” that flows out of the Heart of Jesus. Be new again in grace.
To each of you I address this invitation: Let your hearts be made young again with the grace of Christ. Be made new in his Spirit. Join me in accepting again our call from Jesus to win the world for him. Embrace anew, along with Pope Francis, our mission of proclaiming the power of the cross. Let us recover the enthusiasm and the hope of the day we first believed. Let us cast off any “baggage” we may have accumulated over the years, any disappointments or compromises that would impede our racing ahead into a future full of hope. We see how the world has welcomed Pope Francis’s love for Jesus. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate our love for Jesus so that the world will be made new by coming to love and follow him.