Today, Sunday, is World Mission Sunday with the theme, “Hearts on fire, feet on the move”. Many of you will recall, when at school, the stories of courageous people who went off to overseas countries to be missionaries. While at Mass on Sunday night, I remembered this image and the current call for all of us to be missionaries. More recently, particularly since the words of Pope Francis, we are called to be missionary disciples. We have been called by name, like those who have gone before us.
When I opened my computer this Sunday morning, I was deeply disturbed and saddened by a message I received, in my role as a Diocesan Director for Caritas, from Kirsty Robertson, the CEO of Caritas Australia, informing us that a Caritas Jerusalem employee was killed while sheltering with her family in Gaza. Viola was killed alongside her toddler and husband and at least 14 others. They were taking shelter in a church and its hall. Here are some of Kirsty’s words:
We pray for our Caritas Jerusalem brothers and sisters and stand in solidarity with them as they face these harrowing challenges.
I draw from the words of Pope Francis: "Let the weapons be silenced; let the cry for peace be heard from the poor, from the people, from the children."
Please join me in solidarity with our colleagues and in prayer for peace.
Like Viola and the other Caritas workers, along with those who work in Catholic agencies around the world, we are called to commit to the gift of faith we received at our baptism, and to serve the world through prayer and sacrifice. The following message can be found on the Catholic Mission website:
We are ordinary people, yet our hearts are ablaze with an extraordinary passion, a flame for God, for humanity, for our collective future. (#Wearestillhere)
I wonder if, those participating in the Synod on Synodality for the past few weeks, have their hearts on fire. Are they still able to listen to their missionary hearts as they share in the sacredness of their conversations in the Spirit? They have been called to listen, discern and pray on behalf of the universal church.
Assembly participants are using the method of spiritual conversation, also known in Synod documents as “Conversations in the Spirit”, in their deliberations, adapting it where necessary. Synod members are asked to keep a dynamic equilibrium between maintaining an overview perspective and identifying the steps to be taken in the journey ahead.
The Instrumentum Laboris (IL) (Universal Phase) is the document which is guiding the processes of gathering, listening, dialogue, discernment, and eventually the way forward for the Catholic Church in this very complex world. I am sure our duty is to lead, to be God’s hands, heart, feet, eyes, ears and voice in our world.
Participants will address different topics in the order outlined in the IL as follows:
Section A (n. 17-42) – focusing on the fundamental characteristics of a synodal Church, starting from the experience of walking together lived by the People of God over two years and gathered in the documents produced during the first phase.
Section B – addressing the three priority issues that emerged from the consultation phase:
B1 (n. 46-50) – “A communion that radiates: How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”
B2 (n. 51-55) – “Co-responsibility in Mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”
B3 (n. 56-60) – “Participation, governance and authority: What processes, structures and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal Church?”
Final Section – gathering the fruits of the process and discerning further paths to continue walking together. The Assembly will consider ways to continue listening to the experiences of the People of God, including promoting in-depth theological and canonical studies in preparation for the Second Assembly in October 2024.
These are good questions for us to ponder, in this time of world violence and confusion. We are being invited to individually and communally be synodal, to walk with each other, to accompany each other in a church that is Christ-centred and Spirit-led. We are being asked to listen to, and respond to, what the Spirit is saying. Its truth can only be discovered in genuine dialogue. We must keep discovering God’s mission for this generation and the generations that follow.
I wonder what words St Paul might write to the Church of Maitland-Newcastle. Do you think they might be like the words we heard in the Second Reading on Sunday in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.
And so, I finish this week’s message with the following words which came across my desk through the week:
Do not be daunted
by the enormity
of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now
Love mercy, now
Walk humbly, now
You are not obligated
to complete the work,
but neither are you free
to abandon it.
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