Throughout the month of October, our global Christian community has experienced a remarkable and crucial event. Following some two years of preliminary consultations in local dioceses and many parishes, representatives of the bishops and clergy as well as lay members, women and men of the community around the world came together for three weeks in Rome.
Calling on the Spirit, on October 9, after a 5 day retreat, Pope Francis opened the first session of a Synod on Synodality. For the next three weeks, almost 400 representatives lay and clergy met in Rome. They listened to each other’s experience of church and spent time in discerning conversation. Those at the synod were called upon to bring and share the many challenges and issues we face in our 21st century church. One might say that we have embarked on carving a course for our Catholic Church, one that is both open and broad.
The Synod on Synodality, as unusual as it might seem, was something that had its roots deep in the history of our church. Such gatherings were common from the very beginning. We find it in the very early church. We see it in the Acts of the Apostles (ch.15), when the apostles determined that the community of Christians was open to both Jews and Gentiles. This mission to all humanity, is the focus of the Synod on Synodality. Ultimately, it is to build the Reign of God in the world. It is a mission based on justice and peace, compassion and love, not for some, but for all.
Matthew in his Gospel (25:14-30) expresses the hope of the coming of the Lord with a parable. The story Jesus tells describes a master entrusting his resources (talents) to his servants. The focus of our attention is not on how much he entrusted to each, but rather what each one did with what was entrusted. What was it that the servants did with what was given them?
As in all the parables, Jesus offers us a challenge. God has blessed each and every person with a share in God’s life. We have a choice as we wait for the coming of the Lord and the final completion of God’s reign. We can, like one of the servants bury the talent (God’s gift of life) entrusted, out of fear or simple reluctance. Or, we can like the other servants take the risks involved and build on the talents entrusted. Given that the parable is about the Kingdom and using our gifts to share life-giving love with others, what do we do with the resources entrusted to us? The demand placed on us is that we share the blessedness entrusted to us. It is not for us alone.
The Synod offers us a chance to discover how, as church we can share this mission deeply and broadly. At the end of the first three weeks in Rome, the representatives were sent home to their own dioceses around the world. With them they had a synthesis or summary of what arose at the Synod, the questions, the conversations, the issues, the questions and the hopes that were part of their reflection.
More importantly, they have been charged with sharing their experience of synodality. It expresses an openness to differences and diversity. Through prayer, deep listening, reflection, and discernment the Spirit allowed them a sense of unity in the midst of diverse and different views and perspectives.
All of this, we are receiving in our home churches for further listening and discernment with one another. In October of 2024, the second session of the Synod will meet with reflections from around the world. Moved by the Spirit, may we discern with openness and truth.