(Vatican Radio) The front of St. Peter’s Basilica was lined with green and scarlet as the Synod Fathers gathered around the altar for the opening mass of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family on Sunday presided over by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
Listen to the report by Fr. Russell Pollitt SJ:
The Scripture texts were those of the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in ordinary time but, as the Pope himself remarked at the beginning of the homily, they “seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing.”
The Pope said that the readings centred on three themes, “solitude, love between man and women, and the family.”
The First Reading came from the book of Genesis – the Lord giving Adam a helpmate. Pope Francis, reflecting on Adam’s loneliness, likened it to the drama of solitude experienced by men and women today – especially the elderly, widows and widowers and those left by their spouses. He said that many today are lonely because they are misunderstood and unheard – referring particularly to migrants and refugees.
The Holy Father went on to say that we experience “the paradox of a globalised world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families.” He spoke of the growing interior loneliness that many in the world experience. He said that we live in a time when we have “many liberties, but little freedom.”
Speaking on the family Pope Francis said that people today are “less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad.”
He went on to say, “Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.”
Pope Francis said that God did not make men and women to live in sorrow or alone but, rather, for happiness.
Reflecting on Mark’s Gospel, the Holy Father said that Jesus was asked a rhetorical question to trap him and make him unpopular with the crowd: “Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?” In answer, he said, Jesus “responds in a straightforward and unexpected way.” The Pope said that he brings everything back to the beginning of creation: “to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility.”
When Jesus says “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder,” exhorts believers to “overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan,” the Pope said.
“For God marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures are doomed to solitude! Being afraid to accept his plan paralyses the human heart,” the Holy Father said.
He said that it was paradoxical that people today ridicule this plan and yet continue to be attracted and fascinated by authentic love. “We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love, they chase carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving.”
The Holy Father said that it was in this “extremely difficult social and marital context” that the Church was to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.”
He said that the Church must be faithful to her Master’s voice and in so doing defend the sacredness of life, the unity and indissolubility of marriage, and be a sign of God’s grace and of the human ability to love seriously.
The truth, Pope Francis said, is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. “The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds.”
Quoting his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father said “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.”
Speaking about the Church’s mission “in charity” Pope Francis used the image of a mother “conscious of her duty to seek and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy.” He spoke of the Church as a “field hospital” with “doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support.”
The Holy Father said that the Church teaches and defends fundamental values yet does not forget “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:27) He also reminded us that Jesus said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mk 2:17).
At the end of the homily Pope Francis quoted Pope St. John Paul II: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time.” He said that the Church must search out these persons to welcome and accompany them and not become a “roadblock” but a “bridge.”
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