VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis Wednesday spoke of the bond which must exist between families and the Christian community, stressing that the Church, in following the Gospel, must always keep its doors open.
"Churches, parishes and institutions whose doors are closed should not call themselves churches,” the Pope said. “They should call themselves museums!”
The Church, in living out the Gospel, must welcome people “with doors open, always,” he said.
The Pope's remarks on the family at his Sept. 9 general audience are the latest in a series of weekly catecheses, beginning last year as part of the lead-up to the World Day of Families in September, as well as October’s Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.
During the audience, Pope Francis focused on the relationship between the family and the Christian community. Citing the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, he explained this relationship falls within the context of the Church being a spiritual family and the family being a small church.
“The Christian community is the home of those who believe in Jesus as the source of fraternity among all men,” he said.
“The Church walks among the people, in the history of men and women, of fathers and mothers, of sons and daughters: This is the history which counts for the Lord.”
Although there are major world events that appear in the history books, the Pope said, “The history of human affection is written directly on the heart of God; and this is the story that remains in eternity.”
“The family is the place of our initiation, unique, indelible, into this history: to this history of full life, which ends in contemplation of God for all eternity in heaven, but (which) begins in the family.”
Pope Francis reflected on how Jesus, who himself was born into a family, was “assimilated into the human condition” for 30 years before establishing a community around himself.
“This is the meaning of the word 'church,'” the Pope said.
The community formed around Jesus was not an “exclusive sect,” but included “the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger and the persecuted, the sinner and the publican, the Pharisee and the crowds,” the Pope said, adding that the disciples were tasked with caring for “this family of God's guests.”
“The strengthening of the bond between the family and the Christian community is essential and urgent,” he said.
“There is need of a generous faith for rediscovering the intelligence and courage” needed for renewing this alliance.
Acknowledging that many families many feel they lack the strength and ability to be welcoming, the Pope nonetheless reminded them that this strength and ability comes from God.
“Without the grace of God, we can do nothing,” he said. “The Lord never arrives in a new family without performing some miracle.”
The Christian community is also called to do its part, Pope Francis said: for instance, by looking to rise above overly legislative and utilitarian attitudes, “favoring interpersonal dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.”
“Families take on initiatives and responsible for bringing their precious gifts to the community. The family and parish must carry out the miracle of a more communal life for the whole of society.”
Pope Francis concluded by inviting families and parish communities to be inspired by Mary at the Wedding Feast of Cana, who told her hosts: “Do whatever he tells you.”
“In doing all that Jesus tells us,” he said, “we find ourselves in facing a miracle, a miracle every day!”