Our humanity carries a host of burdens, whether personal or global. Grudges, past hurts and disappointments, old hatreds, intolerances - they dot the horizons of our lives. It seems our world is constantly mired in these conditions and these conditions are not avenues to life. They are, in fact hindrances. They generate a lack of trust in one another. They reveal a blindness to the good in each other and they wound our relationships. They are hinderances to peace.
Around the world, these barriers to peace are evident, in the disputes, differences and long-standing hatreds. They produce nothing but conflicts and even wars. Such hurdles prevent the emergence of relationships that are life-giving and filled with promise. It is possible to recognize as well that this wounding of relationships and this inability to live in peace is not limited to the global picture, but also appears in our personal and even intimate relationships.
This is not God’s dream, God’s plan for all creation. The story of God’s dream begins in Mark’s Gospel with John the Baptist and his message of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” With John’s appearance on the scene, the final act of God’s saving outreach to humanity begins. Jesus would be the center of this loving, life-giving entry of God in our world.
The Old Testament prophets had already prepared the world for such a life-giving dream. Isaiah announces it with full voice: Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.... Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain (Is.40:1-4). God will heal and reconcile. God will bring the promise of salvation to the peoples of the earth, a core piece of our faith.
Living faith and the conversion or change of heart it calls for is all about relationships – with God, with neighbour, with all humanity and creation itself. John the Baptist called for a baptism of repentance (Mark 1;1-8). This is more than our personal sins and flaws. It is our whole attitude and way of life. Repentance for us is a change of heart and a redirecting of our lives to bring new life to all our relationships, personal and global. It is a metanoia, a change of heart for our world.
Our community of faith, our church is a global community with many cultures, languages and ways of expressing our faith. For some 2000 years this community has been growing and developing, evolving and changing. Key to our unity and at the core of how we do church is our willingness to work at listening to one another and respecting each other, even or perhaps especially where we are different. To listen deeply and to respect differences in a way that expresses our unity and ability to live together and share faith together in peace is, significant.
The Synod on Synodality, that held its first session in Rome this past October is focused on this blessing of listening. In his opening address to the Synod, Pope Francis emphasized our church’s need for such openness. It comes from our shared baptism. Every voice, he said, needs to speak, to participate. And listening deeply, to every voice is essential.
Francis sees the synod as an opportunity for the whole church, in this year, “to become a listening Church…. To listen to the Spirit…. To listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life.” Being church in this time, calls for a change of heart, a new advent for a listening church for all.