Homily at Close of European Bishops' Assembly

"The New Evangelization means nothing more than opening hearts and ears to the word of God"

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ST. GALLEN, OCT. 1, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the homily given by Bishop Markus Büchel of St.Gallen on Sunday at the general assembly of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences

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Days marked by intense work, as well as by encounter, now draw to a close. Together with the large community following us live on television, with faithful from different cultures and languages, we are here to celebrate our faith, upon the conclusion of the great plenary assembly. Through the Eucharistic celebration we encounter Christ in the Word and in the Sacraments. Starting today, or tomorrow, you, dear guests, will return to your European countries with the task of guiding the local Church and strengthening the faith with your vibrant proclamation. It’s an important social and spiritual challenge, and all the more so in the light of the rapid transformations of our times!

Those of you who had the possibility of visiting the city of St. Gallen in recent weeks or months, surely also experienced the celebrations for the great Jubilee anniversary. 1400 years ago, Irish monks crossed Europe and with their sermons they created the Christian-spiritual foundations that were bound to provide support to Christian culture, as it developed in the course of the centuries. Those who visit the rebuilt narrow cells of St. Gall on the grounds of the convent, surrounded by a large structure in a city that is fully aware of its historical heritage, will notice the incredible progress of a modest beginning, brought down to us across the centuries. In the same place where there once was only a man with a great charisma, enthusiastic of God, today we find the community of a Church that struggles for her self-affirmation within a secularised world …

In this conflicting situation, the words of late Cardinal Maria Martini, who paid frequent visits to St. Gallen in his capacities as CCEE president, come back to my mind. In an interview released a short time before his death, Cardinal Martini said:

“The Church is tired, in the Europe of wellbeing and in America. Our culture has aged, our Churches are large, our religious homes are empty and the bureaucratic apparatus of the Church is growing, our rites and our garments are pompous. But do these things express what we are today? Does the cultural heritage that we are called to cherish truly serve the purpose of proclamation? Or are they instead limiting our forces, preventing us from moving even when we are oppressed by difficulties?”

Over the past decades, the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences undertook a commitment for evangelization in Europe, as shown in the great amount of documents produced. An important Bishops’ Synod, scheduled to take place in Rome in the coming weeks, will focus on this very theme. On that occasion, the question of the enlightened Cardinal, whose existence was characterized by deep spiritual experiences and sorrow, will have to play a central role: does the cultural patrimony we are called to look after serve for proclamation and for people? Do they truly express what we are? I hope and I pray that all the reflections and the efforts made for the New Evangelization will be accompanied by deep faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and by the yearning to understand what men are and where they are today.

Dear faithful, here in this Church and in your homes,

The readings of the Holy Scriptures for this Sunday provide important an thrust in support of our commitment to find Christ:

Moses guided the People of God from slavery in Egypt towards freedom, but the journey through the desert was hard and trying, and the future was uncertain. The people complained, and asked to go back. Moses, alone, felt tired and asked for the help of the Lord. In the book of Numbers we read (11,25): And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesized, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. The Spirit hovers where it chooses, and those who are apparently alien to the logic of the Gospel can become an instrument of Grace. In the new union Christ distributed the gifts of the Spirit to all those who were ready to receive them. The Second Vatican Council uses the image of the Pilgrim Church to represent the journey in time of the People of God. As shepherds of the flock, we hope we will recognise and support vocations, as well as the intellectual gifts of the men of the Church, so they may be put to the fruitful service of the latter. Moreover, the New Evangelization means nothing more than opening hearts and ears to the word of God, and rediscover the community with Christ, so rich in spirit.

In the Epistle of James the community is faced with yet another form of imprisonment – that of being prisoners of earthly existence, of wellbeing, of possession. - Men who are familiar with the positive side of life and the world are exhorted not to lose track of the deepest riches in life. Nowadays many people suffer a want of important inner values. Those who let the love of Christ transform their own lives know that the Son of Man in the time of judgement will ask us how we behaved towards our poor and needy sisters and brothers. We, as Church in the world and in society have been ascribed a clear commitment. This is why we are grateful for the diaconical actions  of Christian faithful, and for the fact that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is always present on the global stage to address the major themes of peace, freedom and justice.

We shall conclude with a third reflection on the Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 9):

Jesus is fighting against evil, against the enemy, but when he is with mankind, he knows no extremism. The wise words: “for whoever is not against us is for us” help us assume an openness to the encounter towards other persons, taking them where they are – meeting them in the spirit of communion and guiding them along the path that will lead to HIM, to Christ, who said of himself: “I am the path, the truth, life.”

Let us pray today for this redeeming love, the love for Christ and for our neighbours, a love that prevails over all forms of desperation and resignation, bestowing courage and faith.

Amen