Don’t be disheartened; be prepared for surprises. In the book of Numbers (22:8ff.) we hear of a donkey who became a prophet of God. The Hebrews were about to end the long journey that led them to the promised land. Their passage through his territory frightened Balak, the king of Moab, who told Balaam, a seer, to stop them, in hopes of avoiding a war. Balaam, who was in his own way a believer, asked God what to do. God told him not to go along with the king, but since the king insisted, Balaam set out on a donkey to do as the king said. The donkey, however, turned aside from the road because it saw an angel with an unsheathed sword, representing the opposition of God. Balaam tugged at the reins and beat the donkey, but could not get it to return to the road. Finally, the donkey opened his mouth and spoke, the beginning of a dialogue that would open the seer’s eyes and turn his mission of cursing and death into a mission of blessing and life.
There’s a point to this charming story:
This story teaches us to trust that the Spirit will always make his voice heard. Even a donkey can become the voice of God, can open our eyes and change our course when we go astray. If a donkey can do that, how much more can a baptized person, a priest, a bishop, a Pope do it? We need but rely on the Holy Spirit, who uses all of creation to speak to us: he only asks us to clean out our ears, to hear better.
Listening: this is the key component of this or any synod process. Of any meeting, really. Check ourselves: are we formulating a reply instead of listening to the details of someone else’s narrative? Last night in our parish’s evening meeting, one of the participants got a little off track. Another person shared privately with me later that experience was annoying, someone trying to dominate the conversation. True, on one level. But I also heard what was behind the details of the conversation: someone who felt embittered by the changes in the Church over the last few decades. Sometimes, when we think we need to focus on the forest, the message is in the tree. And sometimes, instead of looking at the tree, our gaze should drift to the whole forest. Listening to what is going on: this is the synod process.
One more post tomorrow from this speech which is copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana