Diocese of Rome Synod Address Part 1, An Exercise In Mutual Listening

Pope Francis introduced the synod to the entire diocese of Rome, and began by describing broadly the intent of a synod, giving a few Scripture citations too. (There are a lot of those in the address.) I was particularly struck by the possible association with one of the more notable New Testament communities. Tell me what you think.

Dear brothers and sisters,

As you are aware, we are about to begin a synodal process, a journey on which the whole Church will reflect on the theme: Towards a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission: those three pillars. Three phases are planned, and will take place between October 2021 and October 2023. This process was conceived as an exercise in mutual listening. I want to emphasize this. It is an exercise of mutual listening, conducted at all levels of the Church and involving the entire People of God.

So, first of all, a synod isn’t about speaking one’s mind, but listening to the mind and will of God. A good spiritual orientation many Catholics miss or avoid. We want so much to get our point across.

The Cardinal Vicar, the auxiliary bishops, priests, religious and laity have to listen to one another, and then to everyone else. Listening, speaking and listening. It is not about garnering opinions, not a survey, but a matter of listening to the Holy Spirit, as we read in the book of Revelation: “Whoever has ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:7). To have ears, to listen, is the first thing we need to do. To hear God’s voice, to sense his presence, to witness his passage and his breath of life.

That’s a very interesting citation from the message to the Ephesians. Check some verses prior:

I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors. Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. (2:2-5a)

Pope Francis is hardly ignorant of Scripture. How does that passage hit the Church these days? Or you? Or me? It strikes me as reflective of our struggles against predators and financial mismanagement and the cover-ups perpetrated on the behalf of criminals. Has the Church become too discouraged, too angry, too drained of love? I suppose it could have been worse. We could have been Laodicea. (Cf. Revelation 3:15-19)

Let’s be surprised:

Thus the prophet Elijah came to realize that God is always a God of surprises, even in the way he passes by and makes himself felt: “A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks… but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

That is how God speaks to us. We need to open our ears to hear that tiny whispering sound, the gentle breeze of God, which scholars also translate as “a quiet whisper” or “a small, still voice”.

In order to hear that soft whisper, we will certainly need to be quiet. Or at least, stop typing.

This speech is copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in 2021 Pope Francis Synod Address, synodality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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