Below is the last installment of Bondings 2.0’s reports from the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome. For the past three weeks, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo has been sending news and commentary from this meeting. Previous posts can be reached by clicking here.
The synod has officially ended. While the final report was made public on Saturday late in the day, and Pope Francis gave his closing speech at that time, the synod did not truly end until Sunday morning, with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
At the liturgy, the pope delivered the homily, and he preached on the day’s readings, focusing primarily on the Gospel which was the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus, the blind beggar ( Mark 10:46-52). He made only one allusion to the synod, at the very closing of his text:
“Dear Synod Fathers, we have walked together. Thank you for the path we have shared with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our brothers and sisters, in the search for the paths which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love. Let us follow the path that the Lord desires. Let us ask him to turn to us with his healing and saving gaze, which knows how to radiate light, as it recalls the splendour which illuminates it. Never allowing ourselves to be tarnished by pessimism or sin, let us seek and look upon the glory of God, which shines forth in men and women who are fully alive.”
But throughout the text, many of his comments referenced themes which emerged during the three weeks of meetings, such as seeking out those on the margins:
“We run the risk of becoming the ‘many’ of the Gospel who lose patience and rebuke Bartimaeus. Just a short time before, they scolded the children (cf. 10:13), and now the blind beggar: whoever bothers us or is not of our stature is excluded. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to include, above all those kept on the fringes who are crying out to him. They, like Bartimaeus, have faith, because awareness of the need for salvation is the best way of encountering Jesus.”
And a warning not to close our hearts to the various difficulties we encounter around us:
“There are, however, some temptations for those who follow Jesus. Today’s Gospel shows at least two of them. None of the disciples stopped, as Jesus did. They continued to walk, going on as if nothing were happening. If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf: his problem was not their problem. This can be a danger for us: in the face of constant problems, it is better to move on, instead of letting ourselves be bothered. In this way, just like the disciples, we are with Jesus but we do not think like him. We are in his group, but our hearts are not open. We lose wonder, gratitude and enthusiasm, and risk becoming habitually unmoved by grace. We are able to speak about him and work for him, but we live far from his heart, which is reaching out to those who are wounded. . . . A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts.”
He repeated his oft-noted admonition for the Church to encounter people where they are, and the theme developed during the synod that the Church must become a listening Church, not one which gives directives or laws:
“Jesus has just left Jericho. Even though he has only begun his most important journey, which will take him to Jerusalem, he still stops to respond to Bartimaeus’ cry. Jesus is moved by his request and becomes involved in his situation. He is not content to offer him alms, but rather wants to personally encounter him. He does not give him any instruction or response, but asks him: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Mk 10:51). It might seem a senseless question: what could a blind man wish for if not his sight? Yet, with this question made face to face, direct but respectful, Jesus shows that he wants to hear our needs. He wants to talk with each of us about our lives, our real situations, so that nothing is kept from him.”
And, of course, his constant theme of mercy:
“His disciples do nothing other than repeat Jesus’ encouraging and liberating words, leading him [Bartimaeus] directly to Jesus, without lecturing him. Jesus’ disciples are called to this, even today, especially today: to bring people into contact with the compassionate Mercy that saves. When humanity’s cry, like Bartimaeus’, becomes stronger still, there is no other response than to make Jesus’ words our own and, above all, imitate his heart. Moments of suffering and conflict are for God occasions of mercy. Today is a time of mercy!”
Though the synod meetings has ended, it seems that the real work of the synod is now just beginning. The work of putting the ideas of the synod into practice by going out and doing the ministry to families–ALL families. We can do that by following Jesus’ principles, some of which were elucidated by the bishops in their final report, some by the pope in his final speech, and some in the homily delivered yesterday.
The family synod has ended. The work of the family synod begins.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry