This is the second in a series of blogs on 'Why synodality?" Seems there are many current Church leaders, lay and ordained, and perhaps even more individuals, who just aren't persuaded about Pope Francis' determination to lead us into the spiritual practice of synodality. So we're embarking on a great persuasion quest...for those who are not on the #synodjourney and for those of you who are, but find yourself having trouble explaining why this is important. So, use our words. Use our logic. Use these blogs to join in persuading others and to reinforce your own reasons for supporting synodality. Use them as a springboard for conversation or as an encouragement for the timid.
When I was a teen in Germany, I attended an evangelical Christian church for a few months. (Full disclosure, I did not grow up Catholic. I came into full communion with the Catholic Church as an adult.) I met wonderful people who took salvation through Jesus and faith practices VERY seriously. They supported one another in joy and sorrow and holy, moly could they sing! "How Great Thou Art" sung by hundreds of believers gazing out across the Alps cannot be matched! Their mission seemed focused on evangelization...on saving souls "for Christ." It's hard to say anything bad about their commitment, their zeal and their real soul-sorrow for all those who did not believe.
But even at the tender age of 15 or so, something seemed "missing" from this mission to me. The Jesus I was coming to know offered himself for the life of the world. And in his day, he stood against systems of oppression, and of degradation and humiliation. He stood against leaders who placed heavy burdens on others and did nothing to release them. He came to set captives free. And he came to proclaim good news to the poor. I suspected then and believe now that the Good News he came to proclaim to the poor was that there are people, HIS followers, who are present in the world working to alleviate suffering caused by poverty by works of charity and to alleviate the reasons for poverty by works of justice. This is Good News to the poor, and proclaiming it is constitutive of the Gospel. It's more than personal salvation...it's personal salvation for the sake of the world!
In the first blog in this series, I talked about one of the reasons synodality is so important is its call for communion, communion in 4 different ways: Christ with His Body and His Body with Him, the Body of Christ with each other, the Body of Christ communally undertaking Jesus' work, and the Body of Christ building the Kingdom across denominational boundaries, united by baptism into Christ's mission. The Instrumentum laboris calls this a communion that radiates out, from the waters of Baptism and food at the Table, to the broken world. This second blog answers the "Why synodality?" question by focusing on how synodality promotes a common focus a communion, if you will) on what was Christ's focus: the healing, hope and renewal of the world...mission.
The Instrumentum laboris opens this great discernment in common by asking the entire Church, through the work of the nearky 400 delegates who will assemble in Rome and through the ongoing work of synod-minded people, by inquiring, "Walking together means not leaving anyone behind and remaining alongside those who struggle the most. How are we building a synodal Church capable of promoting the belonging and participation of the least within the Church and in society?" That query appears in the first set of questions focusing on communion. But before I say more, let me be very clear. Another reason why is synodality important is Because it calls the Church to focus on her mission and to organize herself to engage the mission.
The second set of questions, flowing from communion in mission, is called "Co-responsibility in Mission." Jesus came and gave his life for the world (John 6:51). Jesus called followers to continue his work, for the salvation of the world. Jesus sent his Spirit that we might continue his work and even greater things (John 14:12-28) . The Church is the gathering place for Jesus' followers, co-missioned with him to carry on his work until he comes again. Thy kingdon come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven is Jesus' vision. It is our constant prayer. Once baptized into this Church, every baptized believer has a role to play. We are all co-responsible for this mission, no matter our denomination. Baptism unites us in this mission focus. So let me say it again. Why is synodality important? Because it calls for an interdenominational unity, grounded in baptism and outwardly focused on mission, for the sake of the world.
And let's face it, this world needs what Jesus offers: healing, hope, unity, purpose, community, and the powerful presence of His Spirit. Synodality, the call to communion and mission, and more ways for the faithful to be co-responsibile for the healing of the world, provides a means to bring the world hope and healing. That's why it's so important for our time. Simply put, our world needs Christians united in addressing her many wounds. People are desperate for Good News: liberation, truth, beauty and goodness. Synodality demands we focus on this mission, finding ways for all the baptized to participate.
How precisely does synodality do this? First, it asks us to discern together how to proclaim the Gospel with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness. Imagine this as the conversation for pastoral councils, staffs, priest councils, bishops conferences? It will be part of the October gathering...imagine what the Spirit can unleash when it's everyone's discernment!
Then, synodality asks us to transform the understanding of mission and its many dimensions out of the narrow confines of clergy and religious, missionaries and S(s)aints to all the baptized. Jesus intended his followers, all of them, to be sent forth reinforcing his liberating words with acts of healing, large and small. From listening from the heart, to healing the Spirit, to curing bodies and sending forth, this is the Church Jesus created. Synodality asks us to unleash ALL the gifts and talents of the baptized for this purpose! Imagine the world, our nation, our communities, our parishes and homes with this focus!
Why is synodality important? It asks the Church to consider how best to meet the cries of a broken world...and to be open to creating the systems and structures that best enable Jesus' tender ministry that hears those cries with a heart to turned toward response. It asks us to step across traditional divides like denomination and gender, into a fuller realization of the vocations, charisms and ministries of all the Baptized. And it asks not for what or why or who...but HOW. It is demanding action which is the nature of the Spirit!
Why is synodality the way for the Church in the third millennium? Because it centers Jesus' mission and demands that the Church organize herself for that mission, unleashing all the charisms, vocations and ministries. Synodality asks the faithful to determine what has to happen so that ALL the charisms and vocations are heard and given a means to contribute? What divisions need to cease, boundaries need to be broken and past practices jettisoned so that the Church become relevant, responsive and re-formed to heal souls and create systems and structures that enable the flourishing of God's people and God's creation?
This is why synodality is important! It centers Jesus' tender heart for the poor, the lost, the broken and the outcast. Synodality demands a contemporary and concrete response to the cry of the earth. Synodality demands structures that promote co-responsibility for Jesus' mission to be carried out in the 21st century. All the baptized are called to participate in this mission.. Synodality calls for the Church to organize herself so this can happen...that's why it's so important. It is giving our lives for the salvation of the world...
Believe this is true? Then commit to act. Here's what you can do as an individual:
Promote the Pentecost Vigil Project's work with others you know who are synod-minded. Send them to our website and tell them why this community is important to YOU!
Donate to support PVP's work. Our first fundraising campaign is underway! Unleash the Spirit of Synodality! Donate here.
Gather other early adopters and conduct sacred listening circles around one or more of the questions in the Instrumentum laboris and share your results with your local Church leaders, and with us!
Guest blog with us. Contact me, email@example.com if you'd like to give this a go! We are especially interested in what early adopters are doing to continue to forge the synod road!
Believe this is true and you are a leader or have a sphere of influence? Here's what you can do to help others on the #synodjourney:
Gather them to pray for the delegates from the US to the Synod.
Send them the Instrumentum laboris and invite them to gather to reflect upon it.
Host several sacred listening circles around the questions posed in the Instrumentum laboris, focusing on those that echo themes that appeared in your local or diocesan report.
Share your own thoughts about the synod with your circle of influence, and invite them to share theirs with you. Compile them, with permission of course, and send them on.
The Pentecost Vigil Project is here to support you on the #synodjourney. We have resources galore, all the important documents in one place, people who will talk with you about your synod journey, and products to help you form others for this way of being. Contact us! We're your companions...fellow pilgrims...early adopters!
Photo Unsplash/Karl Hunley Jr.