Today concludes the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. This has been the theme in the Church’s heart for the past few weeks. I’d like to draw out the aspects relevant to creation and nature within this broader theme. To start, I’d like to begin with Pope Benedict’s thought on the New Evangelization expressed in his final homily:
This interpretation, that Bartimaeus was a man who had fallen from a condition of “great prosperity”, causes us to think. It invites us to reflect on the fact that our lives contain precious riches that we can lose, and I am not speaking of material riches here. From this perspective, Bartimaeus could represent those who live in regions that were evangelized long ago, where the light of faith has grown dim and people have drifted away from God, no longer considering him relevant for their lives. These people have therefore lost a precious treasure, they have “fallen” from a lofty dignity – not financially or in terms of earthly power, but in a Christian sense – their lives have lost a secure and sound direction and they have become, often unconsciously, beggars for the meaning of existence. They are the many in need of a new evangelization, that is, a new encounter with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1), who can open their eyes afresh and teach them the path. It is significant that the liturgy puts the Gospel of Bartimaeus before us today, as we conclude the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization. This biblical passage has something particular to say to us as we grapple with the urgent need to proclaim Christ anew in places where the light of faith has been weakened, in places where the fire of God is more like smoldering cinders, crying out to be stirred up, so that they can become a living flame that gives light and heat to the whole house.
This reflection by the Pope expresses the centrality of Jesus, expressed in these final words: “New evangelizers are like that: people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ.”. This experience in turn leads to an attitude and a “path of pastoral creativity”. One of these creative avenues is perhaps the environment and the interest in nature. In fact, the opening words of the Pope for the Synod, were filled with natures metaphors.
In fact, the Pope’s initial word’s set the tone for the official document of the Synod Fathers to the People of God. The logic of this document is excellent, beginning with the need to begin with a personal encounter with Jesus. Here was an important reference to reconciliation. Then, two aspects were highlighted as important signs of the New Evangelization: service to the poor and contemplation, the latter having close ties to nature and environment as seen here and here. Finally, there was an important role attributed to science, art and the economy, all in relation to creation:
A particular field of the encounter between faith and reason today is the dialogue with scientific knowledge. This is not at all far from faith, since it manifests the spiritual principle that God placed in his creatures. It allows us to see the rational structures on which creation is founded. When science and technology do not presume to imprison humanity and the world in a barren materialism, they become an invaluable ally in making life more humane. Our thanks also go to those who are involved in this sensitive field of knowledge.
We also want to thank men and women involved in another expression of the human genius, art in its various forms, from the most ancient to the most recent. We recognize in works of art a particularly meaningful way of expressing spirituality inasmuch as they strive to embody humanity’s attraction to beauty. We are grateful when artists through their beautiful creations bring out the beauty of God’s face and that of his creatures. The way of beauty is a particularly effective path of the new evangelization.In addition to works of art, all of human activity draws our attention as an opportunity in which we cooperate in divine creation through work. We want to remind the world of economy and of labor of some matters arising from the Gospel: to redeem work from the conditions that often make it an unbearable burden and an uncertain future threatened by youth unemployment, to place the human person at the center of economic development, to think of this development as an occasion for humanity to grow in justice and unity. Humanity transforms the world through work. Nevertheless we are called to safeguard the integrity of creation out of a sense of responsibility towards future generations.