Vatican City, 3 September 2014 (VIS) – “We do not become Christians by ourselves, of our own will, autonomously, but rather we are generated and grow in faith within the great body of the Church”, said Pope Francis during this morning’s general audience. “The Church is truly a mother, a mother who gives life in Christ and who enables us to live with all our brethren in the communion of the Holy Spirit”.
The Holy Father explained that the Church has a model for this maternity in the Virgin Mary. “The maternity of the Church is in continuity with that of Mary. … The Church, in the fruitfulness of the Spirit, continues to generate new sons and daughters in Christ. .. The birth of Jesus from Mary’s womb is indeed the prelude to the rebirth of every Christian and He is the first-born of a multitude of brothers. Therefore, we are able to understand the depth of the relationship between Mary and the Church; when we look to Mary, we see the most beautiful and most tender face of the Church; when we look to the Church, we recognise the sublime features of Mary. We Christians are not orphans”.
He remarked that the Church is our mother as she gave birth to us in our Baptism, and, “since that day, like an affectionate mother, brings us up in faith and shows us, through the strength of God’s Word, the path of salvation, defending us from evil”. The maternity of the Church is particularly evident in the service of evangelisation, in which she is “committed, like a mother, to offering her sons the spiritual nourishment that nurtures them and renders Christian life fruitful. The path of salvation, by which the Church guides us and accompanies us with the strength of the Gospel and the support of the Sacraments, gives us the capacity to defend ourselves against evil, like a courageous mother who protects her children from danger.
The Pope warned that, although God has defeated Satan, he always returns with his temptations. “We must not be ingenuous”, he said, “but must instead remain vigilant and firm in our faith, with the counsel and the help of the mother Church who … accompanies her children in difficult moments”. Similarly, Francis encouraged those present to remember that we, all baptised persons, are the Church, and must not be afraid to bear witness to this maternity. “Let us entrust ourselves to Mary”, he concluded, “so that she may teach us to have the same maternal spirit towards our brethren, with a sincere capacity to accept, forgive, give strength and infuse trust and hope”.