Going to Mass should not be a weekly chore but is instead the beginning of a Christian’s witness to the world, Pope Francis said today during the General Audience.
Francis started his traditional Wednesday reflection by asking the crowd to wish a Happy Easter to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who he said was watching on television from his home inside the Vatican.
“I would also like us to say a Happy Easter - because he was Bishop of Rome - to the beloved Pope Benedict,” Francis told the crowd many of whom were holding umbrellas or wearing waterproof ponchos to protect them from the rain.
The audience on Wednesday marked the end of a series of papal reflections on the celebration of Mass, and today Francis focussed on the concluding rites of the liturgy. The end of the Mass, he stressed, marked the starting point for taking the gospel out of the church doors.
“Christians do not go to Mass to complete a weekly task,” Francis said. “Christians go to Mass to participate in the Lord's Passion and Resurrection and then to live more like Christians: the commitment of Christian witness is opened.”
He went on: “We leave the church to ‘go in peace’ to bring God's blessing to our daily activities, in our homes, in the workplace, among the occupations of the earthly city, ‘glorifying the Lord with our life.’ But if we leave the church gossiping and saying, ‘look at this, look at that …’, the Mass has not entered our hearts.”
Receiving communion, the Pope explained, allows souls to be enlarged by the Holy Spirit, opening them to serving their contemporaries and to offer a “credible” Christian witness.
“Christians are men and women who let themselves be enlarged by the power of the Holy Spirit, after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Let your soul enlarge! Not these closed souls, small, selfish, no! Wide souls, great souls, with great horizons.”
The audience in St Peter’s Square took place with the more than 50,000 flowers imported from Holland and arranged especially for Easter Sunday.
"You see that today there are flowers, and the flowers speak of joy,” the Pope said. “In some places Easter is called "Easter flowered" because the risen Christ blooms like a new flower, our justification blooms, the holiness of the Church blooms.”
The Pope urged the crowd to become men and women of the Eucharist, which he said means allowing Christ’s “thoughts to be our thoughts, his feelings our feelings, his choices to become our choices.”
Mass, he added, is “like the grain, the grain of wheat that then in ordinary life grows, grows and matures in good works, in attitudes that make us look like Jesus.”
After the formal catechesis, the Pope greeted various pilgrims from different language groups including English, German, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese.
Speaking to those from the Middle East, Francis pointed out that it is not “Church which makes the Eucharist,” but instead the “Eucharist which makes the Church.”
PICTURE: The statue of St. Peter is seen as Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)