(Vatican Radio) Sunday 25 Oct. Lines of faithful spiraled around St. Peter's Square from early on Sunday awaiting their chance to enter St. Peter’s Basilica for the closing Mass of the Synod on the Family. The Mass, presided over by Pope Francis, marked the end of the second gathering of the Synod of Bishops to discuss "The Mission and Vocation of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World."
Families from all over the world filled the Basilica. As the Synod Fathers walked down the aisle people waived eagerly when they spotted their own bishop – or, of course, their favourite cardinal!
In his homily Pope Francis concentrated on the readings of the day. He said that the three readings "show us God's compassion, his fatherhood, definitively revealed in Jesus."
The prophet Jeremiah, the Holy Father said, proclaims that God has saved his people, the remnant of Israel, because he is their Father. God takes care of his people and accompanies them on their way. "God will change their captivity into freedom, their solitude into communion," he said.
Commenting on the Second Reading from the letter to the Hebrews, Pope Francis said that it reveals Jesus' compassion. Jesus is "beset with weakness, so that he can feel compassion for those in ignorance and error."
Pope Francis said that Gospel was directly linked to the First Reading. Jesus' compassion frees Bartimaeus. "Jesus is moved by his request and becomes involved in his situation." The Holy Father said that it was significant that he is told to "take heart" which means, "have faith, strong courage!" He went on to say that Jesus gives people strength to face difficult situations. He said that the second important word was "rise". "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."
Pope Francis warned of temptations for those who follow Jesus. He said that Mark’s Gospel showed at least two of them. First, none of the disciples stopped to do anything for the blind man, they were deaf, and his problem was not theirs. The Holy Father said that we, today, could do the same. He said that this can be called a "spirituality of illusion" because "we can walk through the streets of humanity without seeing what is really there; instead we see what we want to see."
The second temptation the Pope spoke of was the danger of falling into a "scheduled faith." He said this is when we are able to walk with the People of God but we already have "our schedule for the journey, where everything is listed". By doing this, the Holy Father said, we run the risk of becoming like the "many" in the Gospel who lose patience with Bartimaeus.
Pope Francis said “Just a short time before, they scolded the children, 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.”
In the end, Pope Francis added, Bartimaeus “did not only regain his sight, but he joined the community of those who walk with Jesus.”
The Holy Father thanked the Synod Fathers who have “walked together.” He said that, with eyes fixed on Jesus, they have searched for paths “which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love.” He told the Synod Fathers that now they have to “follow the path the Lord desires” not 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.”
The prayers of the faithful were read in five languages – including Chinese, French, Polish, English, and Hindi – praying for the Church, families, world leaders, the economic situation and the poor, suffering and lonely.
The president-delegates of the Synod and the general secretaries concelebrated with Pope Francis.
At the end of the Mass, before leaving the Basilica, the Salve Regina was sung. The Holy Father paused at the image of the Holy Family during the Salve Regina and then, left the Basilica with the bishops in procession down the main aisle.
(Fr. Russell Pollitt, SJ)