“Hope is poor, like the grain of wheat that dies, yet has the power to disseminate God’s plans,” said the Pope.
Wealth frequently blinds us to “both the reality of the desert and the oases hidden therein,” and offers “textbook answers and repeats platitudes,” he said.
“It babbles about its own empty ideas and concerns, without even coming close to reality. I am certain that in this difficult and confused, yet provisional moment that we are experiencing, we will find the solutions to the complex problems we face in that Christian simplicity hidden to the powerful yet revealed to the lowly. The simplicity of straightforward faith in the risen Lord, the warmth of communion with him, fraternity, generosity, and the concrete solidarity that likewise wells up from our friendship with him.
The Pope stressed that God does not speak to us as if we were strangers or as if he were a solicitor delivering a personal summons, nor does he “lay down rules to be followed like certain functionaries of the sacred.”
Rather, “God speaks with the unmistakable voice of the Father to his children; he respects the mystery of man because he formed us with his own hands and gave us a meaningful purpose.”
“Our great challenge as a Church is to speak to men and women about this closeness of God, who considers us his sons and daughters, even when we reject his fatherhood,” the Pope told the bishops. “For him, we are always children to be encountered anew.”
The Gospel cannot be reduced to “a programme at the service of a trendy gnosticism, a project of social improvement, or the Church conceived as a comfortable bureaucracy, any more than she can be reduced to an organization run according to modern business models by a clerical caste.”
“The Church is the community of Jesus’ disciples. The Church is a Mystery and a People. Better yet, the Church the Mystery becomes present through God’s People,” he said.
Missionary discipleship is “a call from God for today’s busy and complicated world.” In this discipleship, the Christian is constantly setting out with Christ “in order to know how and where the Master lives.”
“Only a Church which is Bride, Mother and Servant, one that has renounced the claim to control what is not her own work but God’s, can remain with Jesus, even when the only place he can lay his head is the cross,” he said.
Closeness and encounter are the means that God uses, with the mystery of the Church being “the perennial place of this encounter.”
He told the bishops that the most essential and urgent activities are to pray and foster their relationship with the living Christ, where unity is always found: “How greatly we need to be alone with the Lord in order to encounter anew the heart of the Church’s mission … How greatly we need to be recollected, within and without! Our crowded schedules, the fragmentation of reality, the rapid pace of our lives: all these things might make us lose our focus and end up in a vacuum. Recovering unity is imperative.”
“If we do not we set out with [Christ] on our mission, we quickly become lost and risk confusing our vain needs with his cause. If our reason for setting out is not Jesus, it becomes easy to grow discouraged by the fatigue of the journey, or the resistance we meet, by constantly changing scenarios or by the weariness brought on by subtle but persistent ploys of the enemy,” he said.
Yielding to discouragement is not part of the Christian mission, and Christ “does not feed our fears.”
“The Gospel is always concrete, and never an exercise in sterile speculations. We know well the recurring temptation temptation to get lost in the byzantinism of the doctors of the law, to wonder how far we can go without losing control over our own demarcated territory or our petty portion of power.”
He stressed the importance of Christ's encounter with persons, and how he draws near to them, talks to them, touches them, and brings them healing and salvation.
“His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father,” the Pope said. “We must never stop reflecting on this. The Church has to re-appropriate the verbs that the Word of God conjugates as he carries out his divine mission. To go forth to meet without keeping a safe distance; to take rest without being idle; to touch others without fear … We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies. We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations.”
He summed up his message by saying the bishops must serve with passion: We need to have the passion of young lovers and of wise elders, a passion that turns ideas into viable utopias, a passion for the work of our hands, a passion that makes us constant pilgrims in our Churches … My brothers, please, I ask you for passion, the passion of evangelization.”
He commended the bishops, their local Churches, and all the people of Latin America and the Caribbean to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil.
“I do so, in the serene certainty that God who spoke to this continent with the mestizo and black features of his Mother, will surely make his kindly light shine in the lives of all.”