‘All of us are children of God, all brothers and sisters in the Church, all of us making up the Church, all of us. That is how the Lord wants us to be.’
The Second Vatican Council was the universal Catholic Church’s response to God’s love and to Jesus’ command to feed his sheep, Pope Francis said, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the council’s opening.
The council reminded the church of what is “essential,” the pope said: “a church madly in love with its Lord and with all the men and women whom he loves,” one that “is rich in Jesus and poor in assets,” a church that “is free and freeing.”
Pope Francis presided over the Mass Oct. 11 in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the council sessions were held in four sessions from 1962 to 1964. The date is also the feast of St. John XXIII, who convoked and opened the council; the glass urn containing his body was moved to the center of the basilica for the liturgy.
The Gospel reading at the Mass recounted Jesus asking St. Peter, “Do you love me?” and telling him, “Feed my sheep.”
In his homily, the pope said the council was the church’s response to that question and marked a renewed effort to feed God’s sheep, not just those who are Catholic, but all people.
The debates that followed the council and continue today are a distraction from the church’s mission, Pope Francis said.
From his homily:
Do you love me? The Lord then says: “Feed my sheep”. He does not mean just some of the sheep, but all of them, for he loves them all, affectionately referring to them as “mine”. The Good Shepherd looks out and wants his flock to be united, under the guidance of the Pastors he has given them. He wants us – and this is the third way of looking at the Church – to see the whole, all of us together. The Council reminds us that the Church is a communion in the image of the Trinity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4.13). The devil, on the other hand, wants to sow the darnel of division. Let us not give in to his enticements or to the temptation of polarization. How often, in the wake of the Council, did Christians prefer to choose sides in the Church, not realizing that they were breaking their Mother’s heart! How many times did they prefer to cheer on their own party rather than being servants of all? To be progressive or conservative rather than being brothers and sisters? To be on the “right” or “left”, rather than with Jesus? To present themselves as “guardians of the truth” or “pioneers of innovation” rather than seeing themselves as humble and grateful children of Holy Mother Church. All of us are children of God, all brothers and sisters in the Church, all of us making up the Church, all of us. That is how the Lord wants us to be. We are his sheep, his flock, and we can only be so together and as one. Let us overcome all polarization and preserve our communion.
May all of us increasingly “be one”, as Jesus prayed before sacrificing his life for us (cf. Jn 17:21). And may Mary, Mother of the Church, help us in this. May the yearning for unity grow within us, the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ. Let us leave aside the “isms”, for God’s people do not like polarization. The people of God is the holy faithful people of God: this is the Church.