The Church is the temple of God and its many and varied members enrich it, Pope Francis taught at his general audience this week at Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican.
“It is, moreover, the Holy Spirit with his gifts, who designs the variety. This is important: what does the Holy Spirit do in our midst? He designs the variety,” the Bishop of Rome said June 26.
“The variety which is the richness of the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, in which we offer not material sacrifices, but us ourselves, our life.”
Noting that Vatican II's Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, calls the Church a temple, Pope Francis said this word calls to mind the Temple of Solomon, which before Christ was “the locus of the encounter with God in prayer.”
The Temple was a “sign of God's presence among the people … a reminder that God has always been in the history of his people, had always been with them on their journey.”
“We, too, when we go to the temple, must remember this story – my story – the story of each one of us – of how Jesus encountered me, of how he walked with me, how Jesus loves and blesses me.”
The Temple of Solomon prefigured what is now “realized in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. The Church is the “place of his presence, where we can find and meet the Lord.”
“Where we can meet God? Where can we enter into communion with Him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our lives,” asked the Roman Pontiff.
“In the people of God,” he replied: “among us, for we are the Church. Within which, we shall meet Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father.”
The Bishop of Rome contrasted the Jewish Temple, “built by the hands of men,” with the temple which is the Church: it is “God himself who 'builds his house' to come and dwell among us” through the Incarnation of God the Son.
“Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds his 'spiritual home', the Church, made not of stone materials, but of ' living stones' – of us, our very selves.”
“How beautiful this is,” he reflected. “We are the living stones of God, profoundly united to Christ, who is the rock of support, and is the support among us.”
“We are not isolated,” he emphasized, suggesting that both the unity and variety brought about the Holy Spirit is part of the Church's beauty.
“The Church is not a weave of things and interests, it is rather the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Temple in which God works, the Temple in which each of us with the gift of Baptism is a living stone.”
“ This tells us that no one is useless in the Church,” he taught. “We are all needed in order to build this temple. No one is secondary … we are all brothers and sisters.”
“Nevertheless,” he added, “it also invites us to reflect on the fact that the Temple wants the brick of our Christian life, that something is wanting in the beauty of the Church.”
“How do we live our being the Church? We are living stones, or are we, so to speak, tired stones, bored, indifferent?”
“Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part of our communities, or do we close in on ourselves,” he asked.
Pope Francis concluded his audience by praying, “may the Lord grant us his grace, his strength, so that we can be deeply united to Christ, the cornerstone, the stone of support for all of our lives and for the life of the Church.”
“Let us pray that, animated by his Spirit, we might always be living stones of the Church.”