Friday, October 19, 2012

A report from the Synod

By Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

I write you this week from Rome — one week into the month-long Synod of Bishops called by Pope Benedict XVI to consider the church’s mission in these times of growing secularism and indifference to religion.

Our Holy Father has been a lively presence — attending most of the Synod sessions with us this week. Already we have had the grace of being able to concelebrate two beautiful Masses with him — one for the opening of the Synod and another to mark the opening of the Year of Faith.

In his homily opening the Synod, he told us: “The Church exists to evangelize.” God has spoken his Word to us. He calls each of us who receives that word in faith to share that word with others. God’s word is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and his call to love and reconciliation with the Father.

The pope spoke of two “branches” of the church’s mission. The first is to proclaim the Gospel — to “evangelize” those who don’t yet know Jesus and his good news of salvation.

The second branch of the church’s mission is the “new evangelization.” The new evangelization is aimed at those who, “though baptized, have drifted away from the church and live without reference to the Christian life,” in the pope’s words.

We evangelize others by our witness to what Jesus means in our lives. We evangelize by “proving” our personal conversion to Christ — by expressing our faith in works of love.

“Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire for conversion,” the pope told us.

Evangelium, conversion and caritas — this is a great program for all of us in this Year of Faith. To hear the Gospel again. To be converted by the encounter with Christ. And to tell others of the love we have found in Jesus Christ.

I am happy to report that the pope is doing well. He is in good health and has been paying close attention to the presentations.

This Synod is a beautiful expression of the universality — the “catholic” nature — of our church. Imagine, almost 300 cardinals and bishops from every nation under heaven, speaking different languages. All sharing the same concern and desire — to reawaken the missionary call of all the faithful; to strengthen our catechesis so that all people might know the faith and practice it better.

In these first days of the Synod, the presentations have reflected the joy and hope of the Body of Christ and the family of God.

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, recommended that the new evangelization begin where the “first” evangelization began — in Jerusalem. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow said the new evangelization should proclaim the “divine mercy” of God as a way to touch “the deepest chords of the human heart.”

Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of León talked of the importance of popular piety. He pointed to the example of how pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City become occasions for a new conversion and return to the faith. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin described the impact of last year’s International Eucharistic Congress on the faith in Ireland.

My brother cardinals and bishops from the United States have made significant presentations — on the importance of confession, works of mercy, and the church’s new blessing prayers for the unborn.

In my presentation, I spoke about how people today are hungry for God.

The ordinary means of sanctification have not changed, but the ways people are living have changed.

So we need to find new ways to help people practice their faith in this globalized culture. We need to find the “language” that best presents the traditional means of sanctification — the sacraments, prayer, works of charity — in a way that is attractive and accessible to people living in the reality of a globalized, secular, urban society.

We are “called to be saints.” And the mission of the new evangelization is to use the means of grace to sanctify people and make them saints — to help the men and women of our day find the pathways to holiness in their ordinary lives in this “globalized world.”

There are no “magic solutions” to the challenge we face in these times. But there is an urgency to bring the good news of the Gospel to our world!

The new evangelization begins with our personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It grows with the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls. We need to realize — all of us — that the new evangelization is our own personal responsibility.

Pray for me during this Synod and know that I am praying for all of you while I am in the Eternal City!

And let us ask the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization.

May she help us to come to make this Year of Faith the beginning of the new evangelization!

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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