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Pope Francis reflects on holiness of church which is filled with sinners

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In the homily at Mass Friday morning at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on the holiness of the church. According to Zenit News Agency, the theme of the Mass centered on the call of sinners to give witness to the Church, which is Holy. He also reflected on the Eucharistic sacrifice which Jesus gives us.

Pope Francis reflected on the belief that the church is holy. This belief is stated in the Nicene Creed which is recited at almost every Mass. The Nicene creed was written at the Council of Nicaea which met in A.D. 325. The following is a translation:

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen

In the Nicene Creed which is recited at most Masses, we say, "We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. These are called the 'four marks of the church'. We are One because we are united behind the teachings of the church. We do not have the power individually to change the teachings of the church which is founded by Jesus Christ. We are Holy, not because of our presence, but because of the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are Catholic. Catholic means 'universal'. This means everyone is welcome. We are not denied membership because of race or nationality. Sinners are also welcome! In fact, we are all sinners! Sinners attend church to find healing and forgiveness for their sins. We are Apostolic because our teachings can be traced back to the time of the Apostles. The Apostles actually knew and were given the faith by Jesus.

Pope Francis reflected on the first reading which recalls the conversion of St. Paul in Damascus. Paul's conversion occurred despite persecuting Christians. Christ chose Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles in spite of his great sins. The Pope said that despite his sins, St. Paul was called to proclaim the holiness of the Church.

"But how can it be holy if we are all in it?" the Pope asked. "We are all sinners, here, And the Church is holy! We are sinners, but She is holy. She is the Spouse of Jesus Christ and He loves Her, He sanctifies Her, He sanctifies her every day with His Eucharistic sacrifice, because He loves Her so much."

The Pope continued, "And we are sinners, but in a Holy Church. And we also sanctify ourselves with this belonging to the Church; we are children of the Church and the Mother Church sanctifies us, with its loves, with the Sacraments of her Spouse."

The Holy Father explained that God chooses sinners to show that it is He who sanctifies. No one can sanctify themselves, nor is there a course or a requirement to live a life of extreme asceticism. Pope Francis added "Holiness is a gift from Jesus to His Church and to show this He chooses people in which his work to sanctify is clearly seen."

Pope Francis gave as examples Matthew, who was considered a traitor to his people; Mary Magdalene, who Jesus freed from seven demons; and Zaccaeus, a corrupt tax collector. The Pope said that these and many others followed the rule of sanctity; one of humiliation, so the the Lord may grow.

"This humiliation", Pope Francis said, "changes St. Paul's heart and he becomes like a child: he obeys." Pope Francis noted that St. Paul cannot be defined as a hero. St. Paul , who was known for preaching the Gospel, in the end is captured, imprisoned and beheaded. "The difference between heroes and saints is the witness, the imitation of Jesus Christ," Pope Francis explained.

Many saints, especially the great saints, end their days humbly. The Pope recalled the final days of St. John Paul II, who was recently canonized.

“He could not speak, the great athlete of God, the great warrior of God ends this way: overcome by sickness, humbled like Jesus,” the Pope said. “This is the route of holiness of the greats. It is also the route of our sanctity. If we do not let our hearts be converted on this path of Jesus - to carry the cross every day, the ordinary cross, the simple cross - and let Jesus grow; if we do not go on this path, we will not be saints.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told the faithful that in giving witness to Christ, we also give witness to His love for us. Although we are sinners, he said, “the Church is holy. It is the Spouse of Jesus.”

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