VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Speaking on behalf of
all adult Catholics, Pope Francis formally closed the Synod of Bishops
by asking young people for forgiveness.
"Forgive us if often we have not listened to you; if, instead of
opening our hearts, we have filled your ears. As Christ's church, we
want to listen to you with love" because young people's lives are
precious in God's eyes and "in our eyes, too," the pope said in his
homily Oct. 28.
The Mass, celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica, closed a month-long
synod on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The pope
thanked the 300 synod members, experts, observers and ecumenical
delegates for working in communion, with frankness and with the desire
to serve God's people.
"May the Lord bless our steps, so that we can listen to young people,
be their neighbors and bear witness before them to Jesus, the joy of
our lives," he said in his homily.
Living the faith and sharing it with the world, especially with young
people, entails going out to those in need, listening, being close to
them and bearing witness to Jesus' liberating message of salvation, Pope
The pope used the day's Gospel reading (Mk 10:46-52) and its account
of Jesus helping Bartimaeus as a model of how all Christians need to
live out and share the faith.
Bartimaeus was blind, homeless and fatherless, and he begged for
Jesus' mercy as soon as he heard he was near, the pope said. Many
rebuked the man, "telling him to be silent."
"For such disciples, a person in need was a nuisance along the way,
unexpected and unplanned," the pope said. Even though they followed
Jesus, these disciples wanted things to go their way and preferred
talking over listening to others, he said.
"This is a risk constantly to guard against. Yet, for Jesus, the cry
of those pleading for help is not a nuisance but a challenge," the pope
Jesus goes to Bartimaeus and lets him speak, taking the time to
listen, Pope Francis said. "This is the first step in helping the
journey of faith: listening. It is the apostolate of the ear: listening
The next step in the journey of faith, the pope said, is to be a
neighbor and do what is needed, without delegating the duty to someone
Jesus asks Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?" showing
the Lord acts "not according to my own preconceived ideas, but for you,
in your particular situation. That is how God operates. He gets
personally involved with preferential love for every person."
Being present and close to people's lives "is the secret to
communicating the heart of the faith, and not a secondary aspect," the
"When faith is concerned purely with doctrinal formulae, it risks
speaking only to the head without touching the heart," he said. "And
when it is concerned with activity alone, it risks turning into mere
moralizing and social work."
Being a neighbor, the pope said, means bringing the newness of God
into other people's lives, fighting the "temptation of easy answers and
fast fixes" and of wanting to "wash our hands" of problems and
"We want to imitate Jesus and, like him, to dirty our hands," just as
"the Lord has dirtied his hands for each one of us," he said. "Let us
look at the cross, start from there and remember that God became my
neighbor in sin and death."
When "we too become neighbors, we become bringers of new life. Not
teachers of everyone, not specialists in the sacred, but witnesses of
the love that saves," Pope Francis said.
The third step in the journey of faith, he said, is to bear witness,
particularly to those who are seeking life and salvation, but who "often
find only empty promises and few people who really care."
"It is not Christian to expect that our brothers and sisters who are
seekers should have to knock on our doors; we ought to go out to them,
bringing not ourselves but Jesus" and encouraging each person by
proclaiming that "God is asking you to let yourself be loved by him," he
"How often," the pope lamented, "instead of this liberating message
of salvation, have we brought ourselves, our own 'recipes' and 'labels'
into the church!"
"How often do people feel the weight of our institutions more than
the friendly presence of Jesus! In these cases, we act more like an NGO,
a state-controlled agency, and not the community of the saved who dwell
in the joy of the Lord."
Just as Jesus journeyed in his ministry with others, "we too have
walked alongside one another" during the synod on young people, the pope
said, formally closing the synod assembly, which began Oct. 3.
Before praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter's
Square, the pope said the synod did more than produce a final document,
it displayed a method of listening to the voices of the people of God
and discerning responses in the light of Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
While the document was important and useful, he said, the methods
employed during the synod and its preparations showed "a way of being
and working together, young and old, listening and discerning, so as to
reach pastoral choices that respond to reality."