VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christians must let go of the God they think they know and convert every day to the God Jesus presents in the Gospel — the God who is the father of love and compassion, Pope Francis said.

When the faithful discover “the true face of the Father, our faith matures: we no longer remain ‘sacristy Christians’ or ‘parlor Christians,’ but rather we feel called to become bearers of God’s hope and healing,” he said Feb. 4 before reciting the Angelus prayer with about 15,000 visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis greets visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Feb. 4, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

During his greetings after the noonday prayer, he also marked the celebration in Italy of the Day for Life.

“I join with the Italian bishops in hoping that ideological visions can be overcome so as to rediscover that every human life, even those most marked by limitations, has an immense value and is capable of giving something to others,” he said.

And he greeted the many young people from different countries who were in Rome to mark the World Day for Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, which is celebrated Feb. 8.

“Many brothers and sisters are deceived with false promises and are then subjected to exploitation and abuse. Let us all join to counter the dramatic global phenomenon of human trafficking,” he said.

In his main Angelus address, the pope reflected on Jesus being continually on the move in the Gospel accounts of his ministry and how that “challenges us with some questions on our faith.”

“The Gospel lets us see that Jesus, after teaching in the synagogue, goes out, so that the word he has preached may reach, touch and heal people,” he said.

“He reveals to us that God is not a detached master who speaks to us from on high; on the contrary, he is a father filled with love who makes himself close to us, who visits our homes, who wants to save and liberate, heal from every ill of the body and spirit,” the pope said.

“God makes himself close to accompany us, tenderly, and to forgive us,” he said. “Do not forget this: closeness, compassion and tenderness.”

Jesus’ journeying reminds the faithful “that our first spiritual task is this: to abandon the God we think we know, and to convert every day to the God Jesus presents to us in the Gospel,” he said.

Christians should reflect on whether they have “discovered the face of God as the father of mercy, or do we believe in and proclaim a cold God, a distant God? Does faith instill in us the restlessness of journeying or is it an intimist consolation for us, that calms us? Do we pray just to feel at peace or does the word we listen to and preach make us go out, like Jesus, toward others, to spread God’s consolation?” he said.