Pope Praises Archangels as ‘Mediators of God’s Grace’

Full Text of Pope Francis' Address at General Audience

Pope Praises Archangels as ‘Mediators of God’s Grace’
Audiencia general 25 agosto 2021 © Vatican Media
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Today, the Feast of the Archangels, celebrated every September 29th, Pope Francis praised Saints Michael, Gabriel and Rafael, as “mediators of God’s grace.”

The Holy Father’s remarks came during his weekly Wednesday General Audience this morning in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where he continued his catechesis on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, focusing specifically on ‘the life of faith.’

Reflecting on the Letter, the Jesuit Pontiff recalled how Saint Paul teaches about justification. For the Apostle–the Pope reflected–God in his mercy, through Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, offered definitive forgiveness and salvation to sinners, thus reconciling us to himself.


God’s Grace Is Primary

“Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus,” Pope Francis said, “led him to understand that we are justified not by the observance of precepts and our own efforts, but by the grace of God through faith in Christ.”

“While the Law remains a holy gift of God, and obedience to the Commandments is essential to our spiritual life, the grace of God, freely bestowed in Christ,” Francis said, “is primary.”

Francis said that the faith born of our experience of God’s saving love, should transform every aspect of our lives, and bear fruit in acts of charity.

Reminding that Saint James wrote we are “justified by works, not by faith alone,” Francis noted that in the work of our justification, “the priority belongs to the justice and mercy of God, who calls us to cooperate in his plan of salvation for all.”

Entrust Ourselves to Archangels’ Protection

During today’s audience, the Pope spoke about the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael,  on several occasions.

“We entrust ourselves in a special way to the protection of the holy Archangels: Michael, who fights against Satan and evil spirits; Gabriel, who brings the good news of the Lord; and Rafael, who heals and accompanies in the search for good.

“With their help, you too may be messengers of the Lord’s grace and mercy,” he told Polish pilgrims.

“Each one of the archangels,” the Holy Father said to pilgrims, “carried out a special mission in the history of salvation.

“Let us invoke his protection, so that we too, with the help of divine grace, can fulfill the mission that the Lord entrusts to us and be witnesses of his mercy through our works and with all our lives.”

“On this day, when we celebrate the feast of the Holy Archangels, I ask Saint Michael, protector of France,” the Pope said to French-speakers, “to watch over your nation, to protect it in fidelity to its roots and to lead your people along the paths of unity. and a growing solidarity.”

Also given that “they are mediators of God’s grace”, the Pope asked to entrust himself to them, “so that our good works make God’s love for the world visible.”

Expressing Concretely Our Love for God

The Holy Father reiterate that the life of faith demands we express concretely our love for God and our brothers and sisters.

Greeting English-speakers, the Pope told them: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Denmark and the United States of America.”

“In a particular way my greeting goes to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College and their families gathered for the ordination to the Diaconate. Upon all of you, and your families,” he said, “I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord.”

“May God bless you!”

Here is the full Vatican-provided text of the Pope’s words at this morning’s audience:

***

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians: 9. Life of faith

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On our journey to better understand Saint Paul’s teaching, today we will encounter a difficult but important topic: justification. What is justification? We, who were sinners, have become just. Who justified us? This process of change is justification. We, before God, are just. It is true, we have our personal sins. But fundamentally, we are just. This is justification. There has been a lot of discussion on this topic, to find the interpretation that best corresponds to the Apostle’s thought and, as often happens, these discussions even ended up in contradicting positions. In the Letter to the Galatians, just as in the Letter to the Romans, Paul insists on the fact that justification comes through faith in Christ. “But, Father, I am just because I keep all the commandments!” Yes, but justification does not come from that. Someone justified you, someone made you just before God. “Yes, but I am a sinner!” Yes, you justified, but a sinner. But fundamentally, you are just. Who justified you? Jesus Christ. This is justification.

What is hidden behind the word “justification” that is so decisive for the faith? It is not easy to arrive at an exhaustive definition, but taking Paul’s thought as a whole, it can be simply said that justification is the consequence of “God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1990). And this is our God, so very good, merciful, patient, full of mercy, who continually grants pardon, continually. He forgives, and justification is God who forgives everyone first in Christ. God’s mercy grants forgiveness. In fact, God, through Jesus’s death – and we need to underline this: through the death of Jesus – destroyed sin and definitively granted us his pardon and salvation. Thus justified, sinners are welcomed by God and reconciled with Him. It is as though the original relationship between the Creator and the creature before the disobedience of sin intervened has been restored. The justification wrought by God, therefore, allows us to recuperate the innocence lost through sin. How does justification happen? Responding to this question means discovering another novelty in Saint Paul’s teaching: that justification comes through grace. Only through grace: we are justified because of pure grace. “But I can’t I, can’t a person, go to the judge and pay so that he can justify me?” No. You cannot pay for this. Someone paid for all of us: Christ. And from Christ, who died for us, comes that grace that the Father gives to everyone: Justification comes through grace.

The Apostle is always mindful of the experience that changed his life: his meeting with the Risen Jesus on the way to Damascus. Paul had been a proud, religious and zealous man, convinced that justification consisted in the scrupulous observance of the precepts of the law. Now, however, he has been conquered by Christ, and faith in Him has completely transformed him, allowing him to discover a truth that had been hidden: we do not become just through our own effort, no, it is not us, but it is Christ, with his grace, who makes us just. So, Paul was willing to renounce everything that before had made him rich, in order to be fully aware of the mystery of Jesus (cf. Ph 3:7), because he had discovered that only God’s grace had saved him. We have been justified, we have been saved, through pure grace, not because of our own merits. And this gives us great trust. We are sinners, yes; but we live our lives with this grace of God that justifies us each time that we ask forgiveness. But not in that moment are we justified: we have been justified, but he comes to forgive us again.

For the Apostle, faith has an all-encompassing value. It touches every moment and every aspect of a believer’s life: from baptism to our departure from this world, everything is informed by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus who gives salvation. Justification through faith underlines the priority of the grace that God offers without distinction to those who believe in his Son.

We must not, however, conclude that the Mosaic Law, for Paul, had lost its value; rather, it remains an irrevocable gift from God. It is, the Apostle writes, “holy” (Rm 7:12). Even for our spiritual life, observing the commandments is essential – we have already said this many times. But even here, we cannot count on our efforts: the grace of God that we receive in Christ is fundamental. That grace that comes from being the justification given us by Christ who already paid for us. From Him, we receive that gratuitous love that allows us, in our turn, to love in concrete ways.

In this context, it is good to recall the teaching of the Apostle James, who wrote: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” It seems to be the contrary, but it is not the contrary. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead” (Jas 2:24, 26). Justification, if it does not bear fruit with our works, is only that, buried, dead. It is there, but we must activate it with our works. This is how James’ words complement Paul’s teaching. For both, therefore, the response of faith demands that we be active in our love for God and in our love of neighbour. Why “active in that love?” Because that love saved all of us, it freely justified us, grace!

Justification incorporates us into the long history of salvation that demonstrates God’s justice: before our continual falls and inadequacies, he has not given up, but he wanted to make us just and he did so through grace, through the gift of Jesus Christ, of his death and resurrection. Sometimes I have said, how does God act? What is God’s style? And I have given three words: God’s style is nearness, compassion and tenderness. He always draws near to us, is compassionate and tender. And justification is precisely the God’s greatest nearness with us, men and women, God’s greatest compassion for us men and women, the greatest tenderness of the Father. Justification is this gift of. Christ, of the death and resurrection of Christ that makes us free. “But, Father, I am a sinner…I have robbed…I have…” Yes, yes. But fundamentally, you are just. Allow Christ to effect that justification. We are fundamentally condemned. Allow me to say, we are saints. But, fundamentally, we are saints: let us allow Christ’s grace to come and this justice, this justification will give us the strength to progress. Thus, the light of faith allows us to recognize how infinite God’s mercy is, his grace that works for our good. But that same light also makes us see the responsibility that has been entrusted to us to collaborate with God in his work of salvation. The power of grace needs to be coupled with our works of mercy which we are called to live to bear witness to how tremendous is God’s love. Let us move ahead with this trust: we have all been justified, we are just in Christ. We must effect that justice with our works. Thank you.

_________________________________

Special Greetings

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Denmark and the United States of America. In a particular way my greeting goes to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College and their families gathered for the ordination to the Diaconate. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!

_________________________

APPEAL

I learned with sorrow of the news of the armed attacks last Sunday against the villages of Madamai and Abun, in northern Nigeria. I pray for those who have died, for those who were wounded, and for the entire Nigerian population. I hope that the safety of every citizen might be guaranteed in the country.

Pope Francis Appeals for Guaranteeing Safety of Nigerians

______________________________

Summary of the Holy Father’s words:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians, we now consider Saint Paul’s teaching on justification. For the Apostle, God in his mercy, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, has offered definitive forgiveness and salvation to sinners, thus reconciling us to himself. Paul’s encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to understand that we are justified not by the observance of precepts and our own efforts, but by the grace of God through faith in Christ. While the law remains a holy gift of God (cf. Rom 7:12), and obedience to the commandments is essential to our spiritual life, the grace of God, freely bestowed in Christ, is primary. The faith born of our experience of God’s saving love should transform every aspect of our lives and bear fruit in acts of charity; in this sense, Saint James can write that we are “justified by works, not by faith alone” (Jas 2:24). In the work of our justification, the priority belongs to the justice and mercy of God, who calls us to cooperate in his plan of salvation for all.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov is Editorial Director & Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for EXAUDI (& Prior, for ZENIT); Author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/
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