VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, in his weekly general audience, said that the Church on earth is on a pilgrimage to heaven guided by the Lord, who will lead us to the fullness of joy and truth at the end of time.
“In today's catechesis, we reflect on the Church (that is) on a pilgrimage to the kingdom [of God],” the Pope told those present in St. Peter’s Square on Nov. 26.
“As was well affirmed in the Second Vatican Council, the Church is not a static reality, but continually journeys throughout history to the final and marvelous goal, which is the kingdom of heaven.”
The Church, the Pope continued, is not an end in herself, but is, rather, the “seed and beginning” of what will be experienced in heaven.
When faced with this reality, we realize that our imagination is limited and that the splendor of the mystery of the kingdom of God far surpasses what we are capable of seeing or perceiving it to be, the Pope observed.
Questions that arise from the faithful are often “When will this final passage take place? What will the new dimension of the Church be like? What then will happen to humanity and to the creation that surrounds us?” he noted.
Scripture tells us that, although we do not know the day or time that the Lord will come again, we know that he is preparing a “new dwelling,” in which “the universe will be transformed, and we will be fully enveloped by joy, peace and the love of God in the new heavenly Jerusalem,” the Holy Father explained.
Pope Francis then spoke of the beauty of the communion that exists between the heavenly and earthly Churches, saying that the Church in heaven sustains and guides us through her intercession.
The kingdom of God, he explained, “is already inside of us, (but) we go forward journeying with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who are the fullness (of the kingdom).”
As members of the pilgrim Church on earth, part of our mission entails praying for the souls in purgatory, who are waiting to enter into eternal happiness, he continued.
However, he noted that, from the Christian perspective, distinction is not made “between who has died or who has not, but between who is with Christ and who is not: This is the fundamental and decisive element for our happiness.”
The Bishop of Rome then referred to the writings of St. Paul, noting how the apostle tells us that, at the end of time, it will not only be humanity that is freed from corruption, but also the entirety of creation.
“All things will be brought into the fullness of being, truth and beauty. This is God’s design for us and the Church’s vocation,” he said, explaining that paradise is not so much a place as it is a state of being.
In this state, which is being prepared for us by God, all of our hopes will be fulfilled, and we will be freed from all evil, including death itself, the Pope observed.
“Although we (often) ignore the time in which the end of all creation will arrive, we know by Revelation that God is preparing for us a New Earth, where justice will dwell, and happiness will satisfy the desires of the human heart in a superabundant way,” he said.
The Pope concluded his address by asking for the intercession of Mary in helping us to be signs of hope for our brothers and sisters.
He greeted pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including England, Kenya, Nigeria, Canada, the United States, Spain, Argentina and México.