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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Joining Together in the Kingdom of God

In our first reading this Sunday we hear from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Using the image of a banquet, Isaiah proclaims the breadth of God’s dream for all humanity: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich foods (Is.25:6).

In Matthew’s Gospel, we once more listen to a parable of Jesus, one of those stories that Jesus told as he instructed his disciples about the Kingdom of God. He compared it to a wedding feast to which the King invited many guests. As the story unfolded, we see that those first invited, refused to come. The King then broadened the invitation to all who could be found. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet. Those servants went out and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests (Matt.22:9-10).

Our God is a God of broad and open love. Both the Old Testament prophet and the Gospel writer captured this vision of God. Our faith in such a God presents us with great hope and an immense challenge. The hope and promise of loving openness offers a dream for all humanity. The challenge is our own role in sharing and planting this dream in our hearts and bringing it forth in our world.

This universal view and open invitation to all is what characterizes the church envisioned and hoped for in the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Time and again in the documents of Vatican II we find the invitation to all to recognize that we are to be full and active members of the Christian community. To be in the community of Christians, the Church means much more than merely being present, being consumers and receivers. We are Church. We are what Vatican II says – the People of God living in our world.

Among the many ways in which such active participation was spoken of in Vatican II we might note the following call to reveal active holiness in our world: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your understanding, with all your strength. Love one another as Christ loves you.” These commands in Scripture are really an invitation to be holy. By our holy love, we nurture in the world a way of life that is more gentle, more beautiful, more human (Vatican II. “Constitution on the Church 39).

This past week, our Church began Session #1 of a synod, gathering in Rome. The preparations began around the globe in 2021. With this first session and a second session (October 2024) there is intent that a synodal structure for our church will become our way of listening to one another and to all others with openness and respect as the People of God. It involves all of us, not just bishops or only clergy, but women and men, laity and clergy from around the world, actively directing our faith community forward. The course to follow was set out in the “Instrumentum Laboris” (Working Document) for Session #1.

The Synod will grow a dynamic openness in the entire church, willing to listen as the People of God that we are called to be. As the “Instrumentum Laboris” states: At the root of this process is the acceptance, both personal and communal, of something that is both a gift and a challenge: to be a Church of sisters and brothers in Christ who listen to one another and who, in doing so, are gradually transformed by the Spirit (Il 18). The foundation of what we call a synodal church is our common Baptism. Our Baptism has made us all equally, children of God, sisters and brothers of Jesus the Christ, filled with the one Spirit and called to the same mission of Good News in our world (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13).

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