Pope Francis may not have read James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” but that classic’s great description of the Catholic Church as “here comes everybody” could have been the title of his Oct. 2, catechesis at his General Audience.
Using the holiness of the Church as his theme, the Holy Father asked the rhetorical questions, “How can a Church be holy if she is made up of human beings, of sinners? Of men who are sinners, women who are sinners, priests who are sinners, nuns who are sinners, bishops who are sinners, cardinals who are sinners, popes who are sinners? Everyone. How can a Church like this be holy”? His answer, of course, was, “The Church is holy because, “she comes from God who is holy …You could say to me: “but the Church is made up of sinners, we see this every day. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners, and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed by God.”
The Pope shocked some when during his now famous interview for the Jesuit magazine, America, the first element of his self-description was, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
Explaining that we all carry our sins with us, but, even the most distant are welcomed by the Church and “to be surrounded by the mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness of the Father,” who “is not a ruthless judge, but is like the Father in the Gospel parable”… whose arms are extended to welcome all, “not the house of few, but the home of all, where everyone can be renewed, transformed and sanctified by His love.”
Holiness does not come from who we are or what we do; it comes from encountering God in our weakness and allowing ourselves to be transformed by his grace.