Last week I shared with you some of the Letter to the People of God from the Synod of Bishops. This week the Synthesis Report – A Synodal Church in Mission - was released for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops First Session, October 4-29. This is a very impressive report, and I am surprised how fast it has been released.
The English translation can be found on A Synodal Church in Mission
It is just over 40 pages in length and is broken up into three parts:
Part 1 – The Face of the Synodal Church
Part 2 – All Disciples, All Missionaries
Part 3 – Weaving Bonds, Building Communities
I thought for this week’s message I would focus on Part 1, particularly in relationship to our diocese, because our synodal journey is now more than 30 years old. To quote from the introduction of the Report on Synodality:
We understood, in fact, that walking together as baptised persons, in diversity of charisms, vocations, and ministries, is important not only for our communities but also for the world. Evangelical solidarity is like a lamp, which must not be placed under a bushel, but on a lampstand so that it may shed light on the whole house (c.f. Mt 5:15). The world needs this testimony today more than ever. As disciples of Jesus, we cannot shirk the responsibility of demonstrating and transmitting the love and tenderness of God to a wounded humanity.
As I write these words, I think of the luncheon we had last week to bring closure to the Diocesan Association of Pastoral Ministers. This Association, previously known as the Association of Pastoral Associates, has existed in the diocese for more than 30 years. Its origins began at a time when almost every parish had a Pastoral Associate, most of whom were religious sisters, who served their communities generously. They met to support and learn from each other. Over time, more lay people and deacons joined the ministry of serving, ministering, and missioning to the broader community. The context is now different and those ministering are supported through several different channels. It was wonderful to gather with about twenty-five present and past pastoral ministers, sharing stories, remembering, praying, and enjoying a wonderful meal together. We have been blessed and grateful to have people respond to God’s call to holiness, to be missionary disciples in our midst.
So now back to the Synthesis Report. Each of the three parts brings together convergences, matters for consideration and proposals that emerged from the dialogue. I hope to write something from the three parts over the coming weeks. This week I will share from Part 1.
We have been talking about synodality for many years now, but I thought I would share with you paragraph (h) in Section 1 of Part 1, on Synodality: Experience and Understanding:
In its broadest sense, synodality can be understood as Christians walking in communion with Christ toward the Kingdom along with the whole of humanity. Its orientation is towards mission, and its practice involves gathering in assembly at each level of ecclesial life. It involves reciprocal listening, dialogue, community discernment, and creation of consensus as an expression that renders Christ present in the Holy Spirit, each taking decisions in accordance with their responsibilities.
For those of you familiar with our own diocesan synod processes and the processes around the Australian Plenary Council, the processes of spiritual conversations which is picked up in the following paragraph, forms us:
Through it, the Holy People of God have discovered that a synodal way of being silent, praying, listening, and speaking, rooted in the Word of God and in joyful, if also sometimes painful, encounters, leads to a deeper awareness that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. An invaluable fruit of this process is the heightened awareness of our identity as the faithful People of God, within which each is the bearer of a dignity derived from Baptism, and each is called to differentiated co-responsibility for the common mission of evangelisation.
The encounter with each other and the Spirit through prayer, dialogue, listening, discernment and recognising the primacy of grace invites us into a path of renewal that transforms individuals, groups, and the Church.
In Section 4 of Part 1, paragraph (g) about People in Poverty, I was reminded as to why we are part of the Hunter Community Alliance (HCA) who will be gathering this week for a Delegates Assembly:
Christians have a duty to commit themselves to active participation in building up the common good and defending the dignity of life, drawing inspiration from the Church's social doctrine and working together in various ways, through engagement in civil society organizations, trade unions, popular movements, grassroots associations, in the field of politics, and so forth. The Church is deeply grateful for them. The community has a duty to support those who work in these fields in a genuine spirit of charity and service. Their action is part of the Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel and bring about the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The Hunter Community Alliance, HCA, is such a body. It organises for the common good of the Hunter Region. We are gathering on Wednesday evening to share and hear stories, deliberate on the issues of the HCA’s common good agenda: affordable and social housing and the energy transition to prepare for our agenda for Founding in April 2024.
The Hunter Community Alliance is a broad-based collaboration and is inclusive of community, environmental, ethnic and cultural groups, unions, and religious organisations. Its purpose is to build the power and influence of community organisations that share similar values and motivations. The Alliance strengthens organisations, and the connectivity between them, through story, training and advocacy – for social and economic progress in the Hunter Region.
And to link this to paragraph (e) from Section 2, Gathered and Sent by the Trinity:
Since synodality is ordered to mission, Christian communities are to enter into solidarity with those of other religions, convictions and cultures, thus avoiding, on the one hand, the risk of self-referentiality and self-preservation, and on the other hand the risk of loss of identity. The logic of dialogue, expressed in mutual learning and journeying together must come to characterize evangelical proclamation, service to those experiencing poverty, care for our common home, and theological research.
And then to paragraph (c) in Section 5 – A Church “out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation”:
Churches live in increasingly multicultural and multireligious contexts. This necessitates finding ways to create dialogue between religions and cultures, with which Christians should engage alongside the many groups that compose a society. Living the Church's mission in these contexts requires a style of presence, service and proclamation that seeks to build bridges, cultivate mutual understanding and engage in evangelisation that accompanies, listens and learns. In the Assembly the image of "taking off one's shoes" to cross the threshold towards encounter with the other resonated as a sign of humility and respect for a sacred space, on an equal footing.
Pope Francis is clearly a man of the world, and he continually invites us to be people of the world, locally, nationally, and internationally.
And now to a scripture passage you may have heard read on All Saints Day from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans (8:35-39)
Nothing therefore can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes or being threatened or even attacked. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him who loved us.
For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This has turned out to be a lengthy message. But I wanted to share with you some of the reflections coming out of the Synod of Bishops which will impact on us as members of the Catholic Church. As you can see, we are already living some of what is contained in the Synthesis Report.
Next week let’s see what Part 2 invites us to!
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