Thanks to all who participated in our Mass at St. James Cathedral last night for the Opening of the Synodal Process in the Archdiocese of Seattle! It was a true experience of the Holy Spirit’s presence and our being part of the Universal Church.
Please watch the video above, or if you wish, you may simply read the homily below. Hopefully I will be able to add some pictures soon.
Last weekend, Pope Francis convoked a new moment for the Universal Church, calling all the baptized to participate in a two-year long Synodal Process. This weekend, every diocese throughout the world is initiating this Synodal way with Eucharistic celebrations, and tonight, here in the Cathedral of St. James in Seattle, our Synodal journey begins. In a sense, we can call this ‘Synod Sunday.’
The official title for this moment is called: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.
The Church by her very nature is synodal, which means that through baptism, each of us is joined to the Body of Christ, in whom we find our unity. Jesus tells us: “I am the way.” Thus, we recognize that in Jesus Christ, we are one, and that traveling the way of Jesus, together, we move in one direction – the way of Jesus, the way of faith and salvation.
In Jesus, we discover and live our unity as the one family of God. (communion) Together with Jesus, inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, we journey together in faith. (Participation) Through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit we carry out the mission of the Church. (Mission)
During this two-year process, we will take time to listen to God’s Word, celebrate the Eucharist, and reflect upon our experience as Church. We are asked to question ourselves on this synodal nature of Church.
As the Church, the Body of Christ, we are one. To be a people of faith means to be on a journey through this life to an eternal life. As a family of God, we carry the faith within us, our belief in God and Jesus Christ his Son. When I think of my parents, my siblings, my grandparents and the many people whom I have known throughout my life and my ministry as a priest a bishop, I have witnessed the beauty of people who walk by faith, and have been instructed and inspired to carry the faith within me and to share it with others as it has been freely shared with me.
A synodal Church recognizes that lay people too have an important role in holding and passing on the Tradition of the Church. The sense of faith (sensus fidei) that resides in the holy, faithful people of God has a valid voice in the mission of the Church.
As Church, we are all one body, from Pope Francis to the newest baptized, from Bishops to laity, religious men and women; deacons, priests, rich, poor, married, single, homeless, man or woman, child or elder, people of every nation, we are the one Body of Christ, journeying together. Think of the enormity of this event and moment. This is the largest consultation of the human family in history. Mostly, it is an exercise of our faith as members of the Body of Christ.
The synodal process is above all a practice of discernment – which requires first silence of prayer, listening to the Word of God, being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We seek the freedom to hear and discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to us as the Body of Christ today. In this discernment we seek to learn how we are to be Church today, capable of identifying the signs of our times that we may interpret them in the light of the Gospel. In such prayerful reflection and discernment, we will know how the Holy Spirit is leading us to accomplish the mission of the Church in the world today.
The words we just heard from the Letter to the Hebrews define well our goal: “”Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Hebrews 4:16) Every human person’s origin is in God. We belong to God, and through this life we are on a journey of faith back to God for all eternity.
In a 2018 study on the meaning of synodality, the International Theological Commission (ITC), said this:
In the synodal Church the whole community, in the free and rich diversity of its members, is called together to pray, listen, analyze, dialogue, discern and offer advice on taking pastoral decisions which correspond as closely as possible to God’s will. (International Theological Commission on Synodality, 2018, #68)
As we begin this synodal process, we are also realistic about our present circumstances. Perhaps today’s Gospel can help us out. The Gospel began with the disciples James and John telling Jesus: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” (Mark 10: 35-45) That pretty much sounds like a Gospel one-liner that summarizes much of today’s extreme individualism! To say the least, this is not what our synodal sharing is to sound or look like.
Isn’t it sad how much energy is unnecessarily spent today by moving in directions other than that which is indicated by Jesus? How much energy is burned up working at odds with each other, even within the Church? Rather than so many people hunkering down in their own ideas and agendas, refusing to come up for air, we need the breath of the Holy Spirit to reunite us as God’s holy, faithful people, to show us the Way to walk together.
Then, we will be capable of seeing the world and the Church through the eyes of God to better identify the ‘signs of the times’ and interpret them through the lens of the Gospel and better understand how to carry out the mission of Christ, the mission of the Church. Only when we walk together as one in the same direction are we capable of being salt of the earth and a light to the world.
The consultation which takes place in a synodal process is a response to the summons of Jesus. The final instruction of Jesus to the disciples today puts us on a proper footing for participating in this synod.
Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10: 44-45)
This instruction of Jesus grounds us for the synodal process. Once again quoting the International Theological Commission, “Exercising synodality makes real the human person’s call to live communion, which comes about through sincere self-giving, union with God and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.” (ITC #43)
We now enter a time of prayer, of listening as a community of faith, with the humility of Jesus. We listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit to learn who we are and how we are to live our faith in the world as credible witnesses and followers of Jesus Christ.
“Let us approach Christ our great high priest, the throne of grace, to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization,
Pray for us!