Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God
October 5, 2008
If we look at history, we are often obliged to register the coldness and rebellion of inconsistent Christians. As a result of this, although God never failed to keep his promise of salvation, he often had to resort to punishment. In this context it comes naturally to think of the first proclamation of the Gospel from which sprang Christian communities that initially flourished but then disappeared and today are remembered only in history books.
Might not the same thing happen in our time? Nations once rich in faith and vocations are now losing their identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture. There are some who, having decided that "God is dead," declare themselves to be "god," considering themselves the only architect of their own destiny, the absolute owner of the world. By ridding himself of God and not expecting salvation from him, man believes he can do as he pleases and that he can make himself the sole judge of himself and his actions. However, when man eliminates God from his horizon, declares God "dead," is he really happy? Does he really become freer? When men proclaim themselves the absolute proprietors of themselves and the sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society where freedom, justice and peace prevail? Does it not happen instead - as the daily news amply illustrates - that arbitrary power, selfish interests, injustice and exploitation and violence in all its forms are extended? In the end, man reaches the point of finding himself lonelier and society is more divided and bewildered. * * *
The comforting message that we gather from these biblical texts is the certainty that evil and death do not have the last word, but that it is Christ who wins in the end. Always! The Church never tires of proclaiming this Good News. * * *
When God speaks, he always asks for a response. His saving action demands human cooperation; his love must be reciprocated. Dear brothers and sisters, may what the biblical text recounts about the vineyard never occur: "[he] looked for it to yield grapes but it yielded wild grapes" (Is 5:2). The Word of God alone can profoundly change man's heart so it is important that individual believers and communities enter into ever increasing intimacy with his Word. * * *
To draw nourishment from the Word of God is [the Church’s] first and fundamental task. In fact, if the Gospel proclamation is her raison d'être and mission, it is indispensable that the Church know and live what she proclaims, so that her preaching may be credible despite the weaknesses and poverty of the people of whom she is comprised. We know, furthermore, that the proclamation of the Word, at the school of Christ, has the Kingdom of God as its content (cf. Mk 1: 14-15), but the Kingdom of God is the very person of Jesus who, with his words and actions, offers salvation to people of every epoch. * * *
"The harvest is plentiful" (Mt 9: 37) the Divine Teacher still repeats today: so many still do not know him and are awaiting the first proclamation of his Gospel; others, although they received a Christian formation, have become less enthusiastic and retain only a superficial contact with God's Word; yet others have drifted away from the practice of the faith and need a new evangelization. Then there are plenty of people of right understanding who ask themselves essential questions about the meaning of life and death, questions to which only Christ can give satisfactory answers. It is, therefore, becoming indispensable for Christians on every continent to be ready to reply to those who ask them to account for the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3: 15), joyfully proclaiming the Word of God and living the Gospel without compromises.
Venerable and dear Brothers . . . we all know how necessary it is to make the Word of God the center of our lives, to welcome Christ as our one Redeemer, as the Kingdom of God in person, to ensure that his light may enlighten every context of humanity: from the family to the school, to culture, to work, to free time and to the other sectors of society and of our life. * * *
May the Lord grant that we approach with faith the two-fold banquet of the Body and Blood of Christ. May Mary Most Holy, who "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2: 19) obtain this for us. May she teach us to listen to the Scriptures and meditate upon them in an inner process of maturation that never separates the mind from the heart. May the Saints come to our aid, and in particular the Apostle Paul, whom during this year we are increasingly discovering as an undaunted witness and herald of God's Word. Amen!