Archbishop of Quebec Cardinal Mark Ouellet on Monday addressed the General Congregation of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, describing its pastoral and missionary goals. The cardinal discussed factors affecting the faith and missionary impulses of Christians, saying the Church must better present divine revelation as a dialogue between God and man to help bring people to a “vivid encounter” with God.
Cardinal Ouellet’s remarks expanded upon the synod theme, “The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.”
“The goal of the Synod is primarily a pastoral and missionary one,” his introductory marks read. “It consists in, together, listening to the Word of God to discern how the Spirit and the Church aspire to respond to the gift of the Word made flesh through the love of the Holy Scriptures and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God to all humanity.”
The missionary impulse of Christianity, the cardinal explained, has been affected by factors such as secularization, religious pluralism, globalization and the enormous expansion in the communication media. These factors have resulted in a growing gap between rich and poor, the blossoming of “esoteric sects,” threats to peace, and “current assaults against human life and family.”
He said to engage with these cultures, the synod should reinforce “the encounter with the Word of God as the source of life.”
Revelation is God’s Dialogue
According to Cardinal Ouellet, the Church renewed its consciousness of its own mystery and mission through the Trinitarian and Christ-centered vision of the Second Vatican Council.
In particular, he referenced the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.
The cardinal said that in Dei Verbum the Council Fathers taught of the dynamic aspects of Revelation, emphasizing it as the personal, self-communicating dialogue of God.
“Thus they laid the bases for a more vivid encounter and dialogue between God Who calls and His people who respond,” he remarked.
However, this view has not yet come to fruition in the Church’s conscience, prayer, and pastoral practices as well as the Church’s “theological and exegetical method.”
Cardinal Ouellet said the synod should ask why Dei Verbum has been insufficiently received and should propose “concrete solutions” to remedy ignorance of the Scriptures.
“We must start from the Mystery of a God that speaks", Cardinal Ouellet explained, "a God Who is Himself the Word and gives Himself to be known by humanity in many ways.
“Thanks to the Bible, humanity knows it has been called upon by God; the Spirit helps it to listen and welcome the Word of God, thus becoming the 'Ecclesia' [Church], the community assembled by the Word. This community of faithful receives its identity and its mission from the Word of God that founds it, nourishes it and engages it to the service of the Kingdom of God."
The Word of God reveals God in different aspects: “It shows God Himself Who speaks, His Divine Word, His creative and saving Word, and finally His Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, 'the mediator and the fullness of all revelation'.”
“The written or transmitted Word of God is a word of dialogue and also a Trinitarian word, offered to man in Jesus Christ to introduce him to Trinitarian communion and to find his full identity. ... God speaks and, because of this, man appears as one-who-has-been-called,” the cardinal continued.
This human dimension of revelation is important because of its role in Biblical interpretation and because of Vatican II’s focus upon the “dialogic identity” of man, his existence in conversation with God, beginning from the “Word of God in Christ.”
Mary: Model of the Church
Cardinal Ouellet also made extended remarks on the Virgin Mary.
“Mary perfectly accomplishes the divine vocation of humanity by her 'yes' to the Word of Covenant and her mission. Through her divine motherhood and her spiritual motherhood, Mary appears as the permanent model and form for the Church, like the first Church.”
He then examined the “flesh-and-blood” dimension of Mary and discussed the Annunciation as “the unsurpassable origin and model for self-communication with God and the experience of faith in the Church.”
The Word of God takes first place in the “living tradition” of the Church, the cardinal noted.
“In effect, Scripture is a historical assertion and a canonical reference that are necessary for prayer, the life and the doctrine of the Church,” he continued.
However, Cardinal Ouellet made a distinction between Scripture and the Word, like that between the “letter and the spirit” of the Bible.
“Despite the complexities of the relationship between Scriptures, Tradition and Magisterium, the Holy Spirit assures a unity to the whole,” he said.
By viewing Scriptures, Church tradition and the Magisterium through the view of the Virgin Mary, we find the “personal dimension” of revelation.
Mary emphasizes both the “dynamic dimension” of the Word and the “personal nature of faith as a gift of oneself,” through which the Church is invited to “live under the Word” and to be open to the Holy Spirit.
Liturgy and Mission
Turning to the liturgy, the cardinal called it “an exercise of the priestly function of Jesus Christ” in which he addresses his people and offers himself to his father “as sacrifice of love for the salvation of the world.”
Helping the faithful cultivate their consciousness of this fact, he said, can be done by helping them “find again the divine depth of the inspired text.”
Despite a “climate of often unhealthy tension between university theology and ecclesial Magisterium,” he said the synod must give heal these relationships and integrate knowledge from biblical studies into the ecclesial interpretation of Scripture.
Directing his remarks towards missionary work, Cardinal Ouellet said “the heart of the mission of the Church is to evangelize.”
This means bringing the Good News into “all the strata of humanity” to transform and renew humanity “from within.”
“When the Spirit speaks to the Church today, recalling the Scriptures, He calls her to a new testimony of love and unity to raise credibility in the Gospel faced with a world more attuned towards witnesses than doctors. ... Consequently, the witness of the Word of God demands that the missionary disciples be authentic witnesses of the primacy of love over science."
The cardinal also discussed the ecumenical movement, saying that though it has produced “fruits of brotherhood, reconciliation and mutual aid,” at present it is characterized by a “certain degree of discomfort” that calls for a deeper conversion to “spiritual ecumenism.”
Ultimately, the missionary activity of the Church “testifies Her love for the whole Christ which includes all cultures. In Her efforts for evangelization of cultures, this activity aims towards the unity of humanity in Jesus Christ, but all in respect and integration of all human values."
As partners in dialogue with the nations, the Jewish people “occupy a unique place as the heir of the first Covenant” and share Holy Scriptures with Christians.
Cardinal Ouellet said the Muslim faithful are also “rooted in the Biblical tradition” and “believers in the one God.” They are even “allies in the defense of human life and in the assertion of the social importance of religion” in the face of secularism and liberalism.
“Jesus always comes to the Church 'to bear witness to the Truth' and to communicate knowledge of God, which He possesses in full, to all those who believe in His name,” the cardinal concluded.
“More than a library for the erudite, the Bible is a temple where the Spouse of the Canticle listens to the promises of the Beloved and celebrates his kisses,” he said, calling for “more contemplative theology, rooted in the liturgy, the Fathers and the lives of the saints,” as well as scriptural exegesis and a “philosophy of love.”
Such a practice “opens to a more fruitful spiritual reading of the Bible, to an ecclesial interpretation of the Scriptures and to a revitalization of the missionary dialogue of the Church and Her love for man, [the] imperfect image of God.”
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