VATICAN — At a Mass on Sunday closing the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the need for faith in overcoming spiritual blindness and also appealed on behalf of the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Drawing from the day’s Gospel of Mark reading, the Pope noted that giving sight to the blind man Bartimaeus “is the last miraculous healing that Jesus performs before his passion, and it is no accident that it should be that of a blind person, someone whose eyes have lost the light.”
Pope Benedict noted that physical blindness “has great significance in the Gospels” because it “represents man who needs God’s light, the light of faith, if he is to know reality truly and to walk the path of life.”
“It is essential to acknowledge one’s blindness, one’s need for this light; otherwise, one could remain blind forever,” he said.
The blind Bartimaeus represents mankind, the Pope went on to say, because he “represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope.”
Pope Benedict made his remarks at the close of the Oct. 7-28 synod in Rome, which gathered bishops and experts from the world in Rome to discuss the transmission of the Christian faith in the modern world.
The synod “meaningfully coincided” with the opening of the Year of Faith (which began Oct. 11) and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope said.
Synod fathers have released a document of 58 propositions about the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict will review the findings of the synod and will write a post-synodal apostolic exhortation after considering their propositions.
During his homily, the Holy Father said that the Oct. 28 Gospel reading directly applies to the recent synod and highlights three themes that emerged from the event.
“The first concerns the sacraments of Christian initiation. It has been reaffirmed that appropriate catechesis must accompany preparation for baptism, confirmation and Eucharist,” he said. “The importance of confession, the sacrament of God’s mercy, has also been emphasized.”
Secondly, “the Church’s task is to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ.”
“A third aspect concerns the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of baptism,” he said. “Such people are found on all continents, especially in the most secularized countries.”
“The Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful.”
The Pope then encouraged all the faithful to embrace full sight in Christ, putting away “all blindness to the truth, all ignorance, and, removing the darkness that obscures our vision like fog before the eyes, let us contemplate the true God.”
He also pointed out that while many lands need to be re-evangelized, this is “essentially linked to the missio ad Gentes” and that there are “still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectations” the first proclamation of the Gospel.
Following the Mass, Pope Benedict expressed his own solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Caribbean this past week and whose affects are now felt on the East Coast of the United States.
“I wish to assure you of my closeness and my recollection of those who have been affected by this natural disaster, while I invite everyone to prayer and solidarity, in order to alleviate the pain of the families of the victims and offer support to the thousands of people who have been hurt in various ways by the storm.”
More than 60 people have been killed by Sandy, which struck the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica before heading to the U.S.
At his Angelus prayer following Mass, the Pope stressed the need for “a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in secularized societies, in the twofold certainty that, on the one hand, he, Jesus Christ, is the only true innovation that meets the expectations of people of all ages; and on the other, that his message asks to be shared in a manner that is appropriate to changing social and cultural contexts.”
This, he said, is the focus of the New Evangelization, that call to present Christ and his Church anew to the modern world.
He also pointed out that in reflecting on Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council we see that “the New Evangelization is not our invention, but is a dynamic that developed in the Church, particularly in the ’50s of the last century.”