Vatican Radio report here.
1. Like the Samaritan woman at the well
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”.
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.
We recall, for example, 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. By going through the pages of the Gospels as well as the apostles' missionary experiences in the early Church, we can discover the various ways and circumstances in which persons' lives were opened to Christ's 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.
We do not ignore the fact that 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 and neglected by the politics of society of which it is also the fundamental cell. It is not always respected in its rhythms and sustained in its tasks by ecclesial communities. It is precisely this, however, that impels us to say that we must particularly take care of the family and its mission in society and in the Church, developing specific paths of accompaniment before and after matrimony. We also want to express our gratitude to the many Christian couples and families who, through their witness, show the world an experience of communion and of service which is the seed of a more loving and peaceful society.Our thoughts also went to the many families and couples living together which do not reflect that image of unity and of lifelong love that the Lord entrusted to us. There 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 are painful situations that negatively affect the education of sons and daughters in the faith. To all of them we want to say that God's love does not abandon anyone, that the Church loves them, too, that 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.
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. In this context 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. May the gratitude of the Bishops reach all who, in sometimes difficult conditions, are involved in this.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. It is the place where consciences are often formed, where people spend their time and live their lives. It is a new opportunity for touching the human heart.
The first is constituted by the gift and experience of contemplation. A testimony that the world would consider credible can arise only from an adoring gaze at the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, only from the deep silence that receives the unique saving Word like a womb. Only this prayerful silence can prevent the word of salvation from being lost in the many noises that overrun the world.We now address a word of gratitude to all men and women who dedicate their lives in monasteries and hermitages to prayer and contemplation. 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.
The other symbol of authenticity of the new evangelization has 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 because 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 Bishops gathered in the Synod gave special consideration, full of fraternal affection and gratitude, to you Christians of the Catholic Oriental Churches, those who are heirs of the first wave of evangelization – an experience preserved with love and faithfulness – and those present in Eastern Europe. Today the Gospel comes to you again in a new evangelization through liturgical life, catechesis, daily family prayer, fasting, solidarity among families, the participation of the laity in the life of communities and in dialogue with society. In many places your Churches are amidst trials and tribulation through which they witness to their participation in the sufferings of Christ. Some of the faithful are forced to emigrate. Keeping alive their oneness with their community of origin, they can contribute to the pastoral care and to the work of evangelization in the countries that have welcomed them. May the Lord continue to bless your faithfulness. May your future be marked by the serene confession and practice of your faith in peace and religious liberty.We look to you Christians, men and women, who live in the countries of Africa and we express our gratitude for your witness to the Gospel often in difficult circumstances. We exhort you to revive the evangelization that you received in recent times, to build the Church as the family of God, to strengthen the identity of the family, to sustain the commitment of priests and catechists especially in the small Christian communities. We affirm the need to develop the encounter between the Gospel and old and new cultures. Great expectation and a strong appeal is addressed to the world of politics and to the governments of the various countries of Africa, so that, in collaboration with all people of good will, basic human rights may be promoted and the continent freed from violence and conflicts which still afflict it.
To you, Christians of Asia, we also offer a word of encouragement and of exhortation. As a small minority in the continent which houses almost two thirds of the world's population, your presence is a fruitful seed entrusted to the power of the Spirit, which grows in dialogue with the diverse cultures, with the ancient religions and with the countless poor. Although often outcast by society and in many places also persecuted, the Church of Asia, with its firm faith, is a valuable presence of the Christ's Gospel which proclaims justice, life and harmony. Christians of Asia, feel the fraternal closeness of Christians of other countries of the world which cannot forget that in your continent – in the Holy Land – Jesus was born, lived, died and rose from the dead.The Bishops address a word of gratitude and hope to the Churches of the European continent, in part marked today by a strong – sometimes even aggressive – secularization, and in part still wounded by many decades of regimes with ideologies hostile to God and to man. We look with gratitude towards the past, but also to the present, in which the Gospel has created in Europe singular theologies and experiences of faith – often overflowing with holiness – that have been decisive for the evangelization of the whole world: richness of theological thought, variety of charismatic expressions, varied forms of charitable service towards the poor, profound contemplative experiences, the creation of a humanistic culture which has contributed to defining the dignity of the person and shaping the common good. May the present difficulties not pull you down, dear Christians of Europe: may you consider them instead as a challenge to be overcome and an occasion for a more joyful and vivid proclamation of Christ and of his Gospel of life.
This presence fills our hearts with joy. Grateful for the gifts received from him in these days, we raise to him the hymn of praise: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord [...] The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46,49). We make Mary’s words our own: the Lord has indeed done great things for his Church throughout the ages in various parts of the world and we magnify him, certain that he will not fail to look on our poverty in order to show the strength of his arm in our days and to sustain us in the path of the new evangelization.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.