Sunday, October 05, 2008

"God Never Fails": The Synod Opens

Amid the mosaiced splendor of St Paul's Outside the Walls, this morning the Pope opened the Synod of Bishops on the Word, concelebrating with the 253 "Synod Fathers":
The evangelical parable of the keepers of the vineyard who throw out and kill the "servants" of the owner, and even his son, was applied today by Benedict XVI to the once "flourishing" "communities" that today "are losing their identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture" and to those who "having decided that 'God is dead', declare themselves 'gods', believing themselves the sole creators of their own destiny, the absolute owners of the world." With the results that we see before our eyes, with the risk of "the expansion of arbitrary power, egoistic interests, injustice and exploitation, violence in all of its expressions."...

Looking at the Gospel parable, Benedict XVI noted that "this page of the Gospel applies to our own way of thinking and acting; it applies especially to those peoples who have received the proclamation of the Gospel. If we look at history, we are forced to recognize that it is not rare for inconsistent Christians to be cold and rebellious. As a result of this, although God never fails his promise of salvation, he has often had to resort to punishment. It is spontaneous to think, in this context, of the first proclamation of the Gospel, which gave rise to Christian communities that at first were flourishing, but later disappeared and are now remembered only in the history books. Could not the same thing happen in our time? Nations that at one time were rich in faith and vocations are now losing their identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture. There are those who, having decided that 'God is dead', declare themselves 'gods', believing themselves the sole creators of their own destiny and the absolute owners of the world. In casting off God and not awaiting salvation from him, man believes that he can do whatever he likes and set himself up as the sole measure of himself and his action. But when man eliminates God from his horizon, is he truly more happy? Does he truly become more free? When men proclaim themselves the absolute owners of themselves, and the sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society in which freedom, justice, and peace reign? Does it not instead happen - as daily events abundantly demonstrate - that there is the expansion of arbitrary power, egoistic interest, injustice and exploitation, violence in all of its expressions? The result, in the end, is that man finds himself more alone, and society is more divided and confused."

But "there is a promise in the words of Jesus: the vineyard will not be destroyed. Although he leaves the unfaithful keepers of the vineyard to their fate, the owner does not abandon his vineyard, and he entrusts it to other servants, who are faithful. This indicates that, if in some regions faith becomes weak to the point of disappearing, there will always be other peoples ready to accept it."

"The message of consolation that we take from these biblical texts," the pope concluded, "is the certainty that evil and death do not have the last word, but it is Christ who overcomes in the end. Always! The Church does not tire of proclaiming this Good News, as is taking place now, in this basilica dedicated to the apostle of the Gentiles, who was the first to spread the Gospel in the vast regions of Asia Minor and Europe. Let us renew in a significant way this proclamation during all of the 12th general ordinary assembly of the synod." "May the Lord help us to examine ourselves over the next weeks of the synodal work, asking ourselves how we can make the proclamation of the Gospel increasingly effective in our time."
With the three-week gathering's business slated to get underway tomorrow morning, the Holy See has released the following prayer for the Synod:
Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father has commanded us to listen as his beloved Son, shed your light upon your Church, so that she might have nothing more holy than to listen to your voice and follow you. You are the Supreme Shepherd and Ruler of Souls. Look then upon the Pastors of your Church gathered in these days with the Successor of St. Peter in synod assembly. We implore you to sanctify them in truth and confirm them in faith and love.

Lord Jesus Christ, send forth your Spirit of love and truth on the bishops in synod and on all who assist them in fulfilling their task. Make them more faithful to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches; stir their souls and teach them truth by that same Holy Spirit. Through their work, may the faithful of their Churches be purified and strengthened in spirit, so that they might greater follow the Gospel through which you accomplished salvation and they might make of themselves a living offering to the heavenly Father.

May Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God and Mother of the Church, assist the Bishops in these days, as she assisted the Apostles in the Upper Room, and intercede with motherly affection to foster brotherly communion among them, to allow them to rejoice in prosperity and peace in the calmness of these days, and, in reading the signs of the times, to celebrate the majesty of the merciful God, the Lord of History, to the praise and glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
PHOTOS: Getty Images(1); Reuters(2)