Summary: Message of the Synod 2008
The Message of the Synod of Bishops 2008 on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church is accompanied by the following synthesis, also prepared by Card. Gianfranco Ravasi and translated into English by Zenit (ZE81024)
Dear Brothers and Sisters
“With all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord as well as ours. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2-3). With the Apostle Paul’s greeting – in this year dedicated to him – we, the Synodal Fathers gathered in Rome for the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, with the Holy Father Benedict XVI, address to you a message full of reflection and proposals on the Word of God that has been the center of our assembly’s work.
It is a message that is entrusted to our pastors in the first place, to the many, generous catechists and to all those who guide you in a loving listening and reading of the Bible. Now, to you, we would like to outline the soul and the substance of this text, so that it may grow and deepen your knowledge and love for the Word of God. There are four cardinal points on the horizon that we invite you to know and that we will express through just as many images.
First of all there is the divine Voice. It echoes in the beginnings of Creation, breaking the silence of nothingness and giving origin to the marvels of the universe. It is a Voice that penetrates in history, wounded by human sin and distressed by suffering and death. It also sees the Lord walking with humanity to offer His grace, His Covenant, His salvation. It is a Voice that enters into the pages of the Holy Scriptures, which we read today in the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, who was given as the light of truth to it and to its pastors.
Also, as Saint John wrote, “The Word became flesh” (1:14). Here then the Face appears. It is Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the eternal and infinite God, but also the mortal man, tied to an historical era, to a people and to a land. He lives the exhausting existence of humanity till His death, but rises glorious and lives forever. He makes our encounter with the Word of God perfect. He unveils to us “the full meaning” and unity of the Holy Scriptures, therefore Christianity is a religion that has a person at its center, Jesus Christ, the One who reveals the Father. He makes us understand that the Scriptures are “flesh”, that is to say human words to be understood and studied in their way of expressing, but that also preserve the light of divine truth within, which we can only live and contemplate with the Holy Spirit.
It is the same Spirit of God that leads us to the third cardinal point in our itinerary, the Home of the divine word, that is to say the Church, which, as Saint Luke suggested (Acts 2:42), is supported by four ideal columns. There is “teaching”, which is reading and understanding the Bible in the announcement made to all, in catechesis, in the homily, through a proclamation that involves mind and heart. Then there is “the breaking of the bread”, which is the Eucharist, the source and the summit of the life and the mission of the Church. Like what happened that day at Emmaus, the faithful are invited to nourish themselves in the liturgy of the table of the Word of God and Body of Christ. A third column is “prayer” with “psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God” (Colossians 3:16). It is the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church’s prayer destined to give rhythm to the days and times of the Christian year. There is also the Lectio divina, the prayerful reading of the Holy Scriptures able to lead, in meditation, in prayer, in contemplation, to the encounter with Christ, the living Word of God. And, finally, there is “brotherly communion” because to be true Christians it will not suffice being “those who hear the word of God” but also those who “put it into practice” (Luke 8:21) through love’s labors. In the home of the Word of God we also can meet the brothers and sisters from other Churches and Christian communities who, even in division, live a real unity, if not a full one, through the worship and love for the divine Word.
Thus we reach the last image of the spiritual map. It is the road the Word of God walks upon: Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations […] and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you…what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops” (Matthew 28:19-20; 10:27). The Word of God must run through the world’s streets which today are also those of computer, television and virtual communication. The Bible must enter into families so that parents and children read it, pray with it and that it may be their lamp for the steps on the way to existence (cf. Psalm 119:105). The Holy Scriptures must also enter into the schools and in the cultural areas because for centuries they were the main reference for art, literature, music, thinking and the same common moral. Their symbolic, poetic and narrative richness makes them a banner of beauty for faith as well as for culture, in a world often scarred by ugliness and lowliness.
However, the Bible also shows us the breath of pain that rises from the earth, goes towards the cry from the oppressed and the laments of the miserable. At the summit it has the cross where Christ, alone and abandoned, lives the tragedy of the most atrocious suffering and death. Because of this presence of the Son of God, the darkness of evil and death is irradiated by the Paschal light and by the hope of glory. But on the roads of the world, the brothers and sisters of other Churches and Christian communities walk with us also, even while divided, live a real unity if not a full one, through the worship and love for the Word of God. Along the paths of the world we often meet men and women of other religions that listen and faithfully practice the commands of their holy books and who, with us, can build a world of peace and light, because God “wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Dear brothers and sisters, guard the Bible in your houses, fully read, study and understand its pages, transform them into prayer and witness of life, listen to it with love and faith in the liturgy. Create the silence to effectively hear the Word of the Lord and hold a silence after the listening, because it will continue to dwell, live and speak to you. Make it resound at the beginning of your day so that God will have the first word and let it echo in you in the evenings so that the last word will be God’s.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32). With the same expression used by Saint Paul in his farewell speech to the heads of the Church in Ephesus, also the Synodal Fathers entrust the faithful of the communities dispersed throughout the world to the divine word, which is also judgment but above all grace, which cuts like a sword but is sweet as a honeycomb. It is powerful and glorious and guides us on the roads of history with Jesus’ hand, who you like us love with an imperishable love (cf. Ephesians 6:24).
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