VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis reflected in his daily Mass May 15 on how the apostles evangelized by first telling the history of God’s people, explaining that it’s impossible to understand a Christian without this association.
“You cannot understand a Christian outside of the people of God. The Christian is not a monad,” but “belongs to a people: the Church,” the Pope observed in his homily. “A Christian without a church is something purely idealistic, it is not real.”
Beginning by looking at the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Father addressed those gathered in the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse by recalling how, when Paul preached in Antioch, he did so by first recounting the whole of Israel’s salvation history.
“Jesus does not make sense without this history” because he “is the end of this story, [the end] toward which this story goes, toward which it walks,” he noted, so “you cannot understand a Christian outside of the people of God.”
“You cannot understand a Christian alone, just like you cannot understand Jesus Christ alone,” the Pope went on to say, explaining that “Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us.”
“No. Jesus Christ has a history. And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because he wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without his history.”
Pope Francis then described how a Christian without a history, a nation or the Church “is incomprehensible,” saying that it’s “a thing of the laboratory, an artificial thing, a thing that cannot give life.”
Drawing attention to the importance of remembering this “dimension of history,” the Holy Father observed that a Christian is “a living memory of his people’s journey; he is the living memory of his Church.”
“Then, where is this people going? Toward the ultimate promise. It is a people walking toward fullness; a chosen people, which has a promise for the future and walks toward this promise, toward the fulfillment of this promise.”
In order to do this, Christians within the Church must be men and women “with hope: hope in the promise,” the Pope went on to say, noting that “it is not expectation. That’s something else: It is hope … which does not disappoint.”
Explaining how a Christian is also someone who remembers, Francis encouraged all present to “seek the grace of memory always,” so that, by doing so and also looking forward with hope, they might be Christians who “follow the path of God and renew the covenant with God.”
This type of Christian constantly tells the Lord, “Yes, I want the commandments; I want your will; I will follow you,” he continued, adding that “he is a man of the covenant, and we celebrate the covenant every day” in the Mass; therefore, a Christian is “a woman, a man of the Eucharist.”
Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis encouraged all present to “think about our Christian identity,” stating, “Our Christian identity is belonging to a people: the Church.”
“Without this, we are not Christians,” he observed, noting how “we entered the Church through baptism: There we are Christians.”
“For this reason, we should be in the habit of asking for the grace of memory, the memory of the journey that the people of God has made,” the pontiff said, and “also of personal memory: what God did for me, in my life; how has he made me walk?”
The Holy Father then prayed “for the grace of hope, which is not optimism, no. It's something else,” and he asked “for the grace to renew the covenant with the Lord, who has called us every day. May the Lord give us these three graces, which are necessary for the Christian identity.”