Pope Francis (Photo: Catholic Press Photo)

The Pope to families: "The Church is in you"

Pope Francis' homily during the concluding Mass of the 10th World Meeting of Families. "We must never forget that the family is the first place where we learn to love."
Pope Francis

In this Tenth World Meeting of Families, it is now the time for thanksgiving. Today we bring before God with gratitude – as if in a great offertory procession – all the fruits that the Holy Spirit has sown in you, dear families. Some of you have taken part in the moments of reflection and sharing here in the Vatican; others have led them and participated in them in the various dioceses, creating a kind of vast “constellation”. I think of the rich variety of experiences, plans and dreams, as well as concerns and uncertainties, which you have shared with one another. Let us now present all of these to the Lord and ask him to sustain you with his strength and love. You are fathers, mothers and children, grandparents, uncles and aunts. You are adults and children, young and old. Each of you brings a different experience of family, but all of you have one hope and prayer: that God will bless and keep your families and all the families of the world.

Saint Paul, in today’s second reading, spoke to us about freedom. Freedom is one of the most cherished ideals and goals of the people of our time. Everyone wants to be free, free of conditioning and limitations, free of every kind of “prison”, cultural, social or economic. Yet, how many people lack the greatest freedom of all, which is interior freedom! The greatest freedom is interior freedom. The Apostle reminds us Christians that interior freedom is above all a gift, when he says: “For freedom Christ has set us free!” (Gal 5:1). Freedom is something we receive. All of us are born with many forms of interior and exterior conditioning, and especially with a tendency to selfishness, to making ourselves the centre of everything and being concerned only with our own interests. This is the slavery from which Christ has set us free. Lest there be any mistake, Saint Paul tells us that the freedom given to us by God is not the false and empty freedom of the world, which in reality is “an opportunity for self-indulgence” (Gal 5:13). No, the freedom that Christ gained at the price of his own blood is completely directed to love, so that – as the Apostle tells us again today – “through love you may become slaves of one another” (ibid.).

All of you married couples, in building your family, made, with the help of Christ’s grace, a courageous decision: not to use freedom for yourselves, but to love the persons that God has put at your side. Instead of living like little islands, you became “slaves of one another”. That is how freedom is exercised in the family. There are no “planets” or “satellites”, each travelling on its own orbit. The family is the place of encounter, of sharing, of going forth from ourselves in order to welcome others and stand beside them. The family is the first place where we learn to love. We must never forget that the family is the first place where we learn to love [...]

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