Photograph Unsplash/Aaron Burden
I've been learning how to be synodal now for about 2 years. And here's what I now understand that I didn't when this all started. This is a SPIRITUAL journey whose purpose is to put us in touch with the Holy Spirit, who is leading both our individual and communal faith journeys. It's not a program. It's not even a process, although it has some processes within it. It's a SPIRITUAL journey, and that means that participation in synodal activities means preparing spiritually to be able to listen with my heart to others AND to listen with my spirit for the voice of the Holy Spirit.
And, it's a spiritual journey steeped in the Word of God. In Biblical Resources for Synodality, we are reminded of the power and pre-eminences of the Sacred Word:
“The word of God is at the basis of all authentic Christian spirituality” (Verbum Domini, 86).
“The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (Dei Verbum, 21).
“For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.” (Dei Verbum, 21).
“The greater our openness to God’s word, the more will we be able to recognize that today too the mystery of Pentecost is taking place in God’s Church.” (Verbum Domini, 123)
During the recent USCCB Synod Office webinar on the what the US Church will be doing between now and October, 2024 this became super clear to me. Three texts were given to us to spend time with alone and in community during January and early February, 2024 in the "spiritual preparation" phase of this interim time period: John 14, Romans 12 and Isaiah 61. And during this webinar, Bishop Flores gave a reflection on Isaiah 61. He is scheduled to give additional reflections as Lent begins: 2/14 at 4:00PM (ET), 3/6 at 3:00PM (ET) and 3/19 at 4:00PM (ET). We don't have the links for those reflections yet!
It was clear, given the time devoted to a reflection on Isaiah 61, that the Synod Office was modeling for us what we must do: to spiritually prepare by immersing ourselves in the Sacred Word, and to remain in communion with the rest of the US Church on the synod journey by delving into those three texts. So, let's get started together. If you belong to a small Christian community or a Bible Study group, pause your pattern and join in reflecting on these passages. These resources can get you started:
For Isaiah 61:
For Romans 12
For John 14
From various scholars, the Chapter in segments
During the USCCB's webinar on next steps in embracing the Synod on Synodality, Bishop Flores strongly suggested that small groups of people gather to share in Lectio Divina with these texts, allowing imagination to inspire and to embed these texts deep within. Unfamiliar with Lectio Divina? Here's a guide.
So, what now? Let's participate in steeping ourselves in these Scripture texts. Let's allow the Sacred Word to permeate our minds and hearts and to animate our hands. Let's be in communion with the Church in the US in this way, even if we are not invited to participate in a diocesan listening session, for the Holy Spirit is sure to strengthen and animate our Spirits in either case. So let us prepare! Let us participate! Let us be on this spiritual journey together!
And after you do this, please share with us your insights! We are all on the road in different places and will benefit from one another's encounters with the Spirit.