Archbishop John Dew blogs from the Synod on the New Evangelisation and the transmission of the Christian Faith in Rome.
The work of the Synod began today with Pope Benedict giving a brief homily at morning prayer time about evangelisation, coming from the word “evangelium” which was a word used when the Roman Emperor sent a message to his people to say that he had been victorious in battle and had overcome the enemy. It has been used for centuries to speak of the “victory” of Christ over sin and death.
The Cardinal who is the General Reporter went on then to set the scene for the whole Synod by reminding us that the New Evangelisation must point to human dignity, self-knowledge and self-realisation – this gives a wonderful opening and wonderful chance to speak to a doubting community, because it is in the light of Jesus Christ that we understand what it is to be human. It is always the Christ of Revelation, of Tradition, and of the Church that we must make known to others, and not the Christ we invent for ourselves, we are reminded that none of us could come to know the mind, heart and the true identity of God on our own.
One of the most telling images for me during the fist morning was a fresco from the Catacombs of Priscilla, which portrays Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying the lost sheep. The Good Shepherd in the catacombs. While the model is taken from pagan culture, it immediately takes on a Christological significance inspired by the parable of the lost sheep. Christ is thus represented as a humble shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders as he watches over his little flock that is sometimes made up of only two sheep placed at his sides.
I think at this stage, early in the synod it is an image that will stay with me, as we continue to pray and reflect on how the gospel can be presented in new and meaningful ways to those who have lost their way in life, to those who are looking for meaning and purpose, and searching for something to hope in.
All good wishes.