The Gospels tell many Jesus-stories. They were part of the faith memories of Jesus shared by the earliest Christian communities. In chapter 12:28-34, Mark relates two contrasting stories. The first recounts what Jesus sees in the scribes. The second story tells of a poor widow.
Like all of the stories in the Gospels, these two are lessons on the Kingdom of God, the reign that was at the centre of Jesus’ life and mission. In this sense, the Good News, or the Gospel is a proclamation of who we are as church, as a community of faith. What Jesus calls his disciples to was not either of the two stories, but rather to recognize in ourselves that in a way we are both. The scribes in the first story meticulously followed the law. They sincerely sought to be seen as holy and to be honoured in the Temple as examples of holiness. The widow in the second story had little, but she held a sincere relationship with God and expressed it by her generosity and integrity.
As church, we are both stories. In fact, we are many stories and over the centuries we have had to acknowledge that we are an evolving community of faith. In 1962-65, the Second Vatican Council addressed the question of how open we are to evolving as church in the midst of a changing world.
The Council called our church to take on a prophetic role as it expressed who we sought to be in the late 20th century. Now in the 21st century Pope Francis calls us to a synod of the whole Catholic community. We are being asked once more to be a prophetic church, to be the community of disciples that Jesus the Christ established, a communion of people who despite our variety and differences can take up our call to live and share the Good News.
As a prophetic community, Pope Francis has called us to enter a process of synod. It is intended to involve the whole church in considering who we are and where we are early in the 21st century. The entire church is called to this journey through reflection, discernment and action. This broad synod process has its roots in the Second Vatican Council, which Pope John XXIII saw as an effort to bring about an openness of the church to the world through reflection on “the signs of the time”.
Like John XXIII and Vatican II, Pope Francis is turning to the ancient and traditional assembly or synod to address “the signs of the time” now. The journey began with the opening on October 9 2021, it will continue to a General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 2023. The two-year process is intended as an experience of “synodality” for the whole church, helping us to recognize that the Spirit speaks through all members of the People of God.
The Preparatory Document for the Synod captures the aim of the Synod: This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s “renewal” proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task: by journeying together and reflecting together on the journey that has been made, the Church will be able to learn through Her experience which processes can help Her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open Herself to Mission. Our “journeying together” is, in fact, what most effectively enacts and manifests the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God. 1 (Bold added)