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Striking Chords: Week Two of the Synod of Bishops

October 13, 2008
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The second week of the synod of bishops began as normal in the aula with 29 synod fathers delivering their five-minute talks to the full assembly of 400 people. This morning's session contained some deep reflections on sowing the seed of the word of God in various parts of the world.
What emerges from the presentations is a deep love of the word of God, tremendous faith on the part of cardinals and bishops who are dealing with a wide variety of pastoral challenges, and the conviction that what we do in sowing the word is never in vain. We are merely sowers, and our sowing must be done generously. It is the Lord who will reap the harvest.
This morning, Australian Cardinal George Pell made mention of World Youth Day in Sydney this past July and struck a chord in the minds and hearts of many of the synod fathers who either participated in this event or sent young people from various parts of the globe to that land Down Under. Several synod fathers have made mention of World Youth Days in their presentations from the first day of the synod, calling these world events "privileged moments" of sowing seeds of Scriptures among the young people of the world.
One very hopeful sign that has emerged through World Youth Days has been the papal choice of Scripture themes assigned to each international event. I can speak of the effectiveness of the theme of Canada's 2002 World Youth Day: "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world" taken from Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 5. This theme served as a leitmotiv during the build-up to World Youth Day 2002, for the event itself, and in the follow-up undertaken by the local Churches throughout the entire world. The theme also gave rise to Canada's first national Catholic television network: Salt + Light Television, which I was asked to direct since its establishment in 2003. The theme bore fruit in the lives of countless tens of thousands of young people throughout the world, and has taken root in Canadian soil through our first national, Catholic television network in new mission territory!
Holy Spirit
The recent Australian World Youth Day offered the universal Church a marvelous opportunity to rediscover the person and role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. Many people have said that Pope Benedict's homily at the World Youth Day Vigil at Randwick Racecourse was one of the finest teachings we have ever received on the Holy Spirit. In Sydney, the young people of the "John Paul II Generation" and of the "Benedict XVI Generation" received power from on high as the Spirit was poured out so lavishly upon them (Acts 1:8).
During the major international World Youth Days, hundreds of bishops and cardinals also attend the event as teachers and catechists. Each day during the World Youth Day week, thousands of young people gather around their bishops and cardinals to hear teachings, catecheses, reflections based on the word of God, and in particular on the theme for the event.
This novel invention has taken on a life of its own, and become an intrinsic part of the biannual international celebrations of faith and youth culture. Not only has this become a unique encounter between generations, but also a special opportunity to proclaim and preach the word of God in such an international setting, and a creative way to offer to young people concrete possibilities of living a biblically rooted life.
I think Cardinal Pell's and other bishops' references to World Youth Days were so warmly received by the synod fathers because at these gatherings, bishops, priests and many others can see, firsthand, the power of God's Word alive among young people. At Youth Day in Toronto, many young people from throughout the world wrote us afterward to tell us that they fell in love with the Bible and with Jesus during the event … and that they continue to read the Scriptures each day.
Finally, one month ago in Paris (Sept. 12), Benedict XVI delivered an important address to the world of culture at the recently opened "Collège des Bernardins." In that masterful lecture, he said: "Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived. This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up.
"To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. … In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text. To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living.
"Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book. God's word and action in the world are only revealed in the word and history of human beings."
While those words may have been addressed to a select audience of people from the world of culture in Paris one month ago, they were a sort of prologue to this synod of bishops on the Word of God.
Speaking of striking a chord, there is no synodal gathering this evening in the aula at the Vatican. We are being bused to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in a few moments to go on pilgrimage to the burial place of this great apostle to the nations. After visiting his newly excavated burial place below the main altar, we will go up to the basilica and join the Holy Father for a special concert in honor of St. Paul, being given to the synod fathers and the Pope by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. On the program for this evening is the Sixth Symphony by Anton Bruckner.
What a way to begin the second week of the synod of bishops!
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is the Vatican's English-language press attache for the 2008 world Synod of Bishops. A Scripture scholar and university lecturer, he is the chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, and a member of the General Council of the Congregation of St. Basil.