Pope's Closing Homily at Synod for the New Evangelization (As synthesized by Deacon Mark)
Synthesis of the New Evangelization
The Church "Is Called to Something New"
The New Evangelization is symbolized in the Samaritan woman at the well (cf. John 4:5-42).
At some point in our life we all find ourselves like the woman of Samaria beside a well with an empty bucket, with the hope of finding the fulfillment of the heart's most profound desire, that which alone could give full meaning to existence. Today, many wells offer themselves to quench humanity's thirst, but we must discern in order to avoid polluted waters. This poison water can seriously harm our souls.
Like Jesus at the well of Sychar, the Church also feels obliged to sit beside today's men and women. She wants to render the Lord present in their lives so that they could encounter him because he alone is the water that gives true and eternal life. Only Jesus can read the depths of our heart and reveal the truth about ourselves: “He told me everything I have done”, the woman confesses to her fellow citizens. This word of proclamation is united to the question that opens up to faith: “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” It shows that whoever receives new life from encountering Jesus cannot but proclaim truth and hope to others. The sinner who was converted becomes a messenger of salvation and leads the whole city to Jesus. The people pass from welcoming her testimony to personally experiencing the encounter: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world”.
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A new evangelization
- Everywhere indeed we feel the need to revive a faith that risks eclipse in cultural contexts
- It is not about starting again, but entering into the long path of proclaiming the Gospel with the apostolic courage of Paul who would go so far as to say “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Throughout history, from the first centuries of the Christian era to the present, the Gospel has edified communities of believers in all parts of the world. Whether small or great, these are the fruit of the dedication of generations of witnesses to Jesus – missionaries and martyrs – whom we remember with gratitude.
- Changing societies and cultures call us to something new: to live our communitarian experience of faith in a renewed way and to proclaim it through an evangelization that is “new in its ardor, in its methods, in its expressions”
- This is an evangelization that is directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life... to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favor the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. The personal encounter is with Jesus Christ in the Church
- The faith determines everything in the relationship that we build with the person of Jesus who takes the initiative to encounter us.
- The work of the new evangelization consists in presenting once more the beauty and perennial newness of the encounter with Christ to the often distracted and confused heart and mind of the men and women of our time, above all to ourselves.
- We are invited to contemplate the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, to enter the mystery of his existence given for us on the cross, reconfirmed in his resurrection from the dead as the Father's gift, and imparted to us through the Spirit.
- In the person of Jesus, the mystery of God the Father's love for the entire human family is revealed.
- The Church is the space offered by Christ in history where we can encounter him, because he entrusted to her his Word, the Baptism that makes us God's children, his Body and his Blood, the grace of forgiveness of sins above all in the sacrament of Reconciliation, the experience of communion that reflects the very mystery of the Holy Trinity, the strength of the Spirit that generates charity towards all.
- We must form welcoming communities in which all outcasts find a home, concrete experiences of communion which attract the disenchanted glance of contemporary humanity with the ardent force of love.
- The beauty of faith must particularly shine in the actions of the sacred Liturgy, above all in the Sunday Eucharist. It is precisely in liturgical celebrations that the Church reveals herself as God's work and renders the meaning of the Gospel visible in word and gesture.
- It is up to us today to render experiences of the Church concretely accessible, to multiply the wells where thirsting men and women are invited to encounter Jesus, to offer oases in the deserts of life.
- Christian communities and, in them, every disciple of the Lord are responsible for this: an irreplaceable testimony has been entrusted to each one, so that the Gospel can enter the lives of all. This requires of us holiness of life.
Encountering Jesus and listening to the Scriptures
- How do we do this? Not by inventing new strategies as if the Gospel were a product to be placed in the market of religions. We need to rediscover the ways in which Jesus approached persons and called them, in order to put them into practice in today's circumstances.
- We need to recall how Jesus engaged Peter, Andrew, James and John in the context of their work, how Zaccheus was able to pass from simple curiosity to the warmth of sharing a meal with the Master, how the Roman centurion asked him to heal a person dear to him, how the man born blind invoked him as liberator from his own marginalization, how Martha and Mary saw the hospitality of their house and of their heart rewarded by his presence.
- The frequent reading of the Sacred Scriptures – illuminated by the Tradition of the Church who hands them over to us and is their authentic interpreter – is not only necessary for knowing the very content of the Gospel, which is the person of Jesus in the context of salvation history.
- Reading the Scriptures also helps us to discover opportunities to encounter Jesus, truly evangelical approaches rooted in the fundamental dimensions of human life: the family, work, friendship, various forms of poverty and the trials of life, etc.
Evangelizing ourselves and opening ourselves to conversion
- The new evangelization concerns us personally. The Church must first of all heed the Word before she can evangelize the world. The invitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion.
- We firmly believe that we must convert ourselves above all to the power of Christ who alone can make all things new, above all our poor existence.
- With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus' disciples, especially of his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission.
- We know that we must humbly recognize our vulnerability to the wounds of history and we do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins.
- We know that the Lord's Spirit is capable of renewing his Church and rendering her garment resplendent if we let him mold us.
- This is demonstrated by the lives of the Saints, the remembrance and narration of which is a privileged means of the new evangelization.
- The work of the new evangelization rests on this serene certainty: We are confident in the inspiration and strength of the Spirit, who will teach us what we are to say and what we are to do even in the most difficult moments.
- It is our duty, therefore, to conquer fear through faith, humiliation through hope, indifference through love.
Seizing new opportunities for evangelization in the world today
- We are not intimidated by the circumstances of the times in which we live. Our world is full of contradictions and challenges, but it remains God's creation.
- The world is wounded by evil, but God loves it still. It is his field in which the sowing of the Word can be renewed so that it would bear fruit once more.
- There is no room for pessimism in the minds and hearts of those who know that their Lord has conquered death and that his Spirit works with might in history.
- We approach this world with humility, but also with determination. This comes from the certainty that the truth triumphs in the end.
- We choose to see in the world God's invitation to witness to his Name.
- Our Church is alive and faces the challenges that history brings with the courage of faith and the testimony of her many daughters and sons.
- We know that we must face in this world a difficult struggle against the “principalities” and “powers”, “the evil spirits” (Ephesians 6:12). We do not ignore the problems that such challenges bring, but they do not frighten us.
Globalization, a phenomenon we must view as an opportunity to expand the presence of the Gospel.
- Secularization – as well as the crisis brought about the ascendancy of politics and of the State – requires the Church to rethink its presence in society without however renouncing it.
- The proclamation of the Gospel binds the Church in charity to be with the poor and to take on their sufferings like Jesus.
- Even in the most bitter forms of atheism and agnosticism we recognize – although in contradictory forms – not a void but a longing, an expectation that awaits an adequate response.
- Dominant cultures pose questions to faith and to the Church. Yet, we renew our trust in the Lord, certain that the Gospel is the bearer of light capable of healing every human weakness.
- God is the prime mover in the work of evangelization. Only by begging this divine initiative, will we too be able to become – with him and in him – evangelizers
Evangelization and the family
- The transmission of the faith from one generation to the next finds a natural home in the family where women play a very special role without diminishing the figure and responsibility of the father.
- In the context of the care that every family provides for the growth of its little ones, infants and children are introduced to the signs of faith, the communication of first truths, education in prayer, and the witness of the fruits of love.
- Despite the diversity of their geographical, cultural and social situations, it is this essential role of the family in the transmission of the faith.
- A new evangelization is unthinkable without acknowledging a specific responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to families and to sustain them in their task of education.
- Today, the family, established in the marriage of a man and of a woman which makes them “one flesh” (Matthew 19:6) open to life, is assaulted by crises everywhere.
- It is surrounded by models of life that penalize it, It is neglected by the politics of the very society of which it is the fundamental cell.
- Even in ecclesial communities, it is not always respected in its rhythms & sustained in its tasks.
- The Church must especially take care of the family and its mission in society and in the Church, developing specific paths of accompaniment before and after matrimony.
- Many Christian couples and families, through their witness, show the world an experience of communion and of service which is the seed of a more loving and peaceful society.
- Cohabitating couples do not reflect that image of unity and of lifelong love that the Lord entrusted to us. These are couples who live together without the sacramental bond of matrimony.
- More and more families in irregular situations are established after the failure of previous marriages. These painful situations that negatively affect the education of sons and daughters in the faith. But, God's love does not abandon anyone. The Church loves them, too.
- The Church is a house that welcomes all, that they remain members of the Church even if they cannot receive sacramental absolution and the Eucharist. May our Catholic communities welcome all who live in such situations and support those who are in the path of conversion and reconciliation.
- Family life is the first place in which the Gospel encounters the ordinary life and demonstrates its capacity to transform the fundamental conditions of existence in the horizon of love.
- But no less important for the witness of the Church is to show how this temporal existence has a fulfillment that goes beyond human history and attains to eternal communion with God.
- Jesus does not introduce himself to the Samaritan woman simply as the one who gives life, but as the one who gives “eternal life” (John 4:14).
- God's gift, which faith renders present, is not simply the promise of better conditions in this world. It is the proclamation that our life's ultimate meaning is beyond this world, in that full communion with God that we await at the end of time.
Evangelization and the Consecrated Life
- On the supernatural horizon of the meaning of human existence, there are particular witnesses in the Church and in the world whom the Lord has called to consecrated life.
- Precisely because they are totally consecrated to God in the exercise of poverty, chastity and obedience, the living the consecrated life is the sign of a future world that relativizes everything that is good in this world.
- They are blessed in their fidelity to the Lord's calling and for the contribution that they have given and give to the Church's mission, especially in these difficult times of change.
- May they continue to establish themselves as witnesses and promoters of new evangelization in the various fields to which the charism of each of their institutes assigns them.
The ecclesial community and the many agents of evangelization
- All within the Church are called to the work of evangelization.
- The role of the parish emerges above all as the presence of the Church where men and women live, “the village fountain” from which all can drink, finding in it the freshness of the Gospel.
- Parishes are exhorted to creatively join the new forms of mission required by the new evangelization to the traditional pastoral care of God's people.
- These must also permeate the various important expressions of popular piety.
- In the parish, the ministry of the priest – father and pastor of his people – remains crucial. They must continue to deepen their spiritual life, to an ongoing formation that enables them to face the changes.
- The presence of deacons is also to be sustained, as well as the pastoral action of catechists and of many other ministers and animators in the fields of proclamation, catechesis, liturgical life, charitable service. The various forms of participation and co-responsibility of the faithful must also be promoted.
- The Church thanks her many dedicated lay men and women for their dedication in our communities' manifold services. She asks all of them to place their presence and their service in the Church in the perspective of the new evangelization.
- The various forms of old and new associations, together with new ecclesial movements are all an expression of the richness of the gifts that the Spirit bestows on the Church. The Church exhorts them to be faithful to their proper charism and to earnest ecclesial communion.
- Witnessing to the Gospel is not the privilege of one or of a few. We recognize with joy the presence of many men and women who with their lives become a sign of the Gospel in the midst of the world.
- We recognize them even in many of our Christian brothers and sisters with whom unity unfortunately is not yet full, but are nevertheless marked by the Lord's Baptism and proclaim it.
- They, too, are convinced that the world needs a new evangelization. We are grateful to the Lord for this unity in the necessity of the mission.
That the youth may encounter Christ
- Our youth are a significant part of humanity's and the Church's present, and also their future.
- The Bishops are far from being pessimistic about our youth. Concerned, yes; but not pessimistic.
- The most aggressive attacks of our times happen to converge precisely on them our youth.
- What moves in the depths of history is Christ's love. Today, the Church senses in our youth deep aspirations for authenticity, truth, freedom, generosity.
- The only adequate response is Christ.
- The Church wants to support them in their search and encourages our communities to listen to, dialogue with and respond boldly and without reservation to the difficult condition of the youth.
- Our faith community should harness, and not to suppress, the power of their enthusiasm; to struggle for them against the fallacies and selfish ventures of worldly powers which, to their own advantage, dissipate the energies and waste the passion of the young, taking from them every grateful memory of the past and every earnest vision of the future.
- The world of the young is a demanding but also particularly promising field of the New Evangelization. The youth's active role in evangelizing first and foremost their world is to be recognized.
- Experiences of spirituality, service, and mission draw them to an active role in evangelizing their world.
The Gospel in dialogue with human culture and experience and with religions
- The New Evangelization is centered on Christ and on care for the human person in order to give life to a real encounter with him.
- Yet, its horizons are as wide as the world and beyond any human experience.
- The Church must carefully cultivate dialogue with cultures, confident that it can find in each of them the “seeds of the Word” about which the ancient Fathers spoke.
- In particular, the new evangelization needs a renewed alliance between faith and reason. Faith has the capacity to welcome every product of a sound mind open to transcendence and the strength to heal the limits and contradictions into which reason could fall.
- Faith does not close its eyes, not even before the excruciating questions arising from evil's presence in life and in history, in order to draw the light of hope from Christ's Paschal Mystery.
- The encounter between faith and reason nourishes also the Christian community's commitment in the field of education and culture. The institutions of formation and of research – schools and universities – occupy a special place in this.
- Wherever human intelligence is developed and educated, the Church is pleased to bring her experience and contribution to the integral formation of the person.
- Particular care is to be reserved for catholic schools and for catholic universities, in which the openness to transcendence that belongs to every authentic cultural and educational course must be fulfilled in paths of encounter with the event of Jesus Christ and of his Church.
- Evangelization requires that we pay much attention to the world of social communication, especially the new media, in which many lives, questions and expectations converge. This provides a new opportunity for touching the human heart. It is the place where consciences are often formed, where people spend their time and live their lives.
- A particular field of the encounter between faith and reason today is the dialogue with scientific knowledge. This is not at all far from faith, since it manifests the spiritual principle that God placed in his creatures.
- It allows us to see the rational structures on which creation is founded. When science and technology do not presume to imprison humanity and the world in a barren materialism, they become an invaluable ally in making life more humane. Our thanks also go to those who are involved in this sensitive field of knowledge.
- The arts are a particularly meaningful way of expressing spirituality. They strive to embody humanity's attraction to beauty. Beautiful creations bring out the beauty of God's face and that of his creatures. The way of beauty is a particularly effective path of the new evangelization.
- We also cooperate in divine creation through work. The Gospel reminds us to redeem work and labor from the conditions that often make it an unbearable burden. An uncertain future threatened by unemployment places the human person at the center of economic development.
- We must think of “development” as an occasion for humanity to grow in justice and unity. Humanity transforms the world through work. Nevertheless humankind is called to safeguard the integrity of creation out of a sense of responsibility towards future generations.
- The Gospel also illuminates the suffering brought about by disease. Christians must help the sick feel that the Church is near to persons with illness or with disabilities.
- In the field of politics, the Gospel can and must shine in order to illuminate humanity's footsteps. Politics requires a commitment of selfless and sincere care for the common good by fully respecting the dignity of the human person from conception to natural end, honoring the family founded by the marriage of a man and a woman and protecting academic freedom; by removing the causes of injustice, inequality, discrimination, violence, racism, hunger and war. Christians are asked to give a clear witness to the precept of charity in the exercise of politics.
- The Church considers the other religions are her natural partners in dialogue. One is evangelized because one is convinced of the truth of Christ, not because one is against another. The Gospel of Jesus is peace and joy, and his disciples are happy to recognize whatever is true and good that humanity's religious spirit has been able to glimpse in the world created by God and that it has expressed in the various religions.
- The dialogue among religions intends to be a contribution to peace. It rejects every fundamentalism and denounces every violence that is brought upon believers as serious violations of human rights.
- The Churches of the whole world ought to be united in prayer and in fraternity to the suffering brethren and ask those who are responsible for the destinies of peoples to safeguard everyone's right to freely choose, profess and witness to one's faith.
The Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in this Year of Faith
- In the path opened by the New Evangelization, we might also feel as if we were in a desert, in the midst of dangers and lacking points of reference.
- Pope Benedict XVI, has spoken of a “spiritual 'desertification'” that has advanced in the last decades.
- Yet, he says, “it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living”
- In the desert, like the Samaritan woman, we seek water and a well from which to drink: blessed is the one who encounters Christ there!
- The Year of Faith is an exquisite portal into the path of the new evangelization. The 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th year anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are important anniversaries, allowing us to reaffirm our close adherence to the Council's teaching and our firm commitment to carry on its implementation.
Contemplating the mystery and being at the side of the poor - witnesses to the New Evangelization
- In the gift and experience of contemplation the world sees a testimony that the can only arise from an adoring gaze at the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a deep silence that receives the unique saving Word like a womb.
- it is only this prayerful silence that can prevent the word of salvation from being lost in the many noises that overrun the world.
- Moments of contemplation must interweave with people's ordinary lives: spaces in the soul, but also physical ones, that remind us of God; interior sanctuaries and temples of stone that, like crossroads, keep us from losing ourselves in a flood of experiences; opportunities in which all could feel accepted, even those who barely know what and whom to seek.
- A symbol of authenticity of the new evangelization is also expressed in the face of the poor.
- Placing ourselves side by side with those who are wounded by life is not only a social exercise, but above all a spiritual act. It is Christ's face that shines in the face of the poor: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
- We must recognize the privileged place of the poor in our communities, a place that does not exclude anyone, but wants to reflect how Jesus bound himself to them.
- The presence of the poor in our communities is mysteriously powerful: it changes persons more than a discourse does, it teaches fidelity, it makes us understand the fragility of life, it asks for prayer: in short, it brings us to Christ.
- The gesture of charity, on the other hand, must also be accompanied by commitment to justice, with an appeal that concerns all, poor and rich.
- The social doctrine of the Church is integral to the pathways of the new evangelization, as well as the formation of Christians to dedicate themselves to serve the human community in social and political life.
To the Churches in the various regions of the world [I skipped this in the synthesis]
14. The star of Mary illumines the desert – Mary is Invoked.
- Bishops echo the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19,20) and the Magnifcat (Luke 1:46,49).
- The figure of Mary guides us on our way. Our work, as Pope Benedict XVI told us, can seem like a path across the desert; we know that we must journey, taking with us what is essential: the company of Jesus, the truth of his word, the eucharistic bread which nourishes us, the fellowship of ecclesial communion, the impetus of charity.
- It is the water of the well that makes the desert bloom. As stars shine more brightly at night in the desert, so the light of Mary, Star of the new evangelization, brightly shines in heaven on our way. To her we confidently entrust ourselves.