Synod a time to “listen with our hearts and not just with our ears”: Archbishop Miller – BC Catholic
The following is taken from Archbishop J. Michael Miller’s homily at the Synod Journey Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary on Sunday, October 24.
The good Lord gathered us in our cathedral this afternoon to begin a historic synodal process in view of the Synod of Bishops which will be held in Rome in two years, in October 2023. Its theme will be: “For a Synodal Church: communion , Participation and Mission.
What is the synod and the synodal process?
The Archdiocese of Vancouver is no stranger to the role of a synod in the life of the Church. On May 4, 1997, Archbishop Adam Exner published his pastoral letter “Towards a New Spring”, which engaged the Archdiocese on a nine-year journey. This Synodal process in which many of you have taken part culminated with the Final Assembly of the Synod and the Declaration on the Synod on December 3, 2006.
Today we are embarking on a different process, a journey with the universal Church guided by the Holy Father.
The word “synod” comes from the Greek word which means both an assembly of people and a journey of spirit, heart and spirit, aimed at discerning the will of God for his Church.
Likewise, the word “synodality” refers to the habits of mind, heart, and spirit necessary for us to participate fruitfully in discussions that will manifest and deepen the unity in communion so necessary to advance the mission of the Church. ‘Church.
Echoing both Scripture and Tradition, Pope Francis speaks of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the life of the Church, and not as an innovation. It is a way of describing how the Church, as a communion of believers – Body of Christ and People of God, united around the Eucharist – cooperates effectively with God’s plan for his Church in history.
What the Archdiocese will undertake in the coming months – at least until the spring – is a process of spiritual discernment that will take place in worship, prayer and obedience to the Word of God and to the teaching of God. the Church. Because it is a process, many meetings will take place between priests, deacons, consecrated women and men, and lay people, between people of all ages and all cultures. Listening and dialogue will take place in parishes, religious communities and associations at regional level and across the archdiocese.
Here is an example of the kind of questions that will be asked of the different groups, so that a 10 page summary can be written for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops:
- What helps or prevents you from being active in the mission of the Church?
- What areas of the Church’s mission are we missing or neglecting?
- What particular issues in the Church do we need to pay more attention to?
- What particular problems in society do we need to pay more attention to?
- How can we, the local Church, walk with our Indigenous brothers and sisters in a process of healing and reconciliation?
- Based on this listening time, could you summarize in one or two sentences how the Spirit calls us to grow as we “walk together” in our church in Vancouver?
In the weeks and months to come, under the leadership of our Chancellor, Barb Dowding, and the team she works with, we will all learn to practice this synodal path – this ‘synodality’ – so that in the years in the future it will become more of a habit. Certainly, it seems at this moment that Rome has thrown us into the deep end. However, let us remember that this is only the first attempt using a process which the Pope hopes will characterize the future life of the Church. We are all learning together, and it will be a challenge.
It is a difficult task, but necessary. I believe that we must at all costs avoid “the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we live” and of trying to apply “old solutions to new problems”, as has been said. Pope Francis said in his opening speech at the October Synod. 9
We should also avoid thinking that the Synod and the Synod process mimic parliamentary debate or are just elaborate opinion polls or study groups for those who have learned theology or Church affairs. On the contrary, Francis says unequivocally that everyone is called to participate, because “the Synod is an ecclesial event, and its protagonist is the Holy Spirit”.
Allow me to offer two thoughts on the synodal process as it will unfold in the Archdiocese. Based on today’s Gospel, they aim to listen to others and meet Jesus. How does this account shed some light on how we should think and act “synodally”?
1. Be a listening and listening community: Bartimaeus is an abandoned blind beggar on the outskirts of Jericho. Nobody listens to him. When he tries to speak, everyone tells him to shut up. Jesus, however, invites her to speak: “What do you want me to do for you? It is not difficult to guess that Bartimaeus wants to regain his sight and get rid of all the problems caused by blindness. Nevertheless, Jesus takes his time; he takes the time to listen. It is the first step in any journey of faith: listening, or what Pope Francis calls “the apostolate of the ear: listen before speaking”.
Our call to listen: it is synodality
So it is in our process of synodality. Jesus also wants to hear our needs as individuals and communities. He wants us to talk about our life in the Church, our real situations, painful or joyful as they are, so that nothing is hidden from him.
We are not to be like those who ordered Bartimaeus to be silent. To such disciples, a person in need was a nuisance. They preferred their own schedule to that of Jesus, their own conversation listening to others. Although they were following Jesus, they had their own plans in mind.
How important it will be for us to listen to ourselves patiently and lovingly when we come together, just as God listens to us and listens to our prayers, however repetitive they may be. Let us now ask for the grace of a listening heart. Like Jesus, let us not be rushed in our response to others. Most importantly, we cannot be afraid to listen with our heart and not just with our ears. As the Pope said in his homily on October 10, whenever we listen with the heart, others feel that they are heard and not judged; they feel free to share their own experiences and their spiritual journey.
Pope Francis asks us these questions:
Are we good at listening? How good is our heart’s “hearing”? Do we allow people to express themselves, to walk in faith even if they have had difficulties in life, and to be part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected or judged? … It is a slow and perhaps tiring exercise, this learning to listen to one another – bishops, priests, religious and lay people, all the baptized – and to avoid artificial, hollow and preconceived answers … let’s not sound out the heart; do not remain barricaded in our certainties.
The Synod, then, offers us the opportunity to become a listening Church in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, to get out of our routine and take a break from our daily concerns in order to stop and listen.
2. Personal meeting of Jesus with Bartimaeus: Let us now move on to the second point: the importance of the meeting in the synodal process: with Jesus and with others. In the Gospel, Jesus wants Jesus in this afternoon’s Gospel. He wants to meet Bartimaeus personally. “Call him here,” said the Lord to his disciples.
He does not delegate someone from the “large crowd” that follows him to look after the blind beggar. Jesus is completely absorbed by Bartimaeus. He’s not trying to get around it. The Lord does not stand aside. He doesn’t seem bothered or bothered. Instead, he is completely present to Bartimaeus. “He knows that someone’s life can be changed with just one meeting”, said Francois.
Our call to meet: it is synodality
We are all called to do the work of God as Jesus shows us; that is, in proximity with him and in communion with our brothers and sisters. As we begin this process of synodality, we are also called to become experts in the art of encounter; that is, we must take the time to meet the Lord and one another. We meet him in prayer and worship, in order to hear what the Spirit wants to say to the Church. As we walk together, we must also take the time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build relationships with them, to be sensitive to their questions and to let ourselves be enriched by the knowledge. variety of their charisms and ministries.
The Gospel shows us an attitude that hinders our willingness to truly meet others in the synodal process. Unlike Jesus, the disciples continued to walk near Bartimaeus, pretending nothing had happened. If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf. His problem was not theirs.
For us, this attitude of indifference is a danger that can easily hamper the fruitfulness of our synodal process. Faced with so many problems, we might be tempted to think that it’s better to just move on, not to be bothered by yet another time-consuming meeting. In this way, just like the disciples, we are with Jesus, but we do not think and act like him, the Pope said in a homily on October 25, 2015. Quite simply, we can lose interest in the call to meet the other. We can be happy, we think, in our little group, but are “deaf to the clamor of so many people who need salvation, who need the help of Jesus, who need the Church”, said Francois.
Let us pray that our commitment to the synodal process which is beginning will be a true season of the Spirit and a gracious initiative! We need the creative breath of the Holy Spirit, who frees us from all forms of self-centeredness, revives what is dying and spreads joy. May the Holy Spirit guide us where God wants the Church to be, not where our own personal ideas and tastes would lead us.
In the months and years to come, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and on our brothers and sisters. Together, we seek the paths that the Gospel indicates for our time, so that we can bring Jesus to the world and the world to Jesus. Let us follow the path the Lord wills.
We entrust the work of our synodal process to the maternal intercession of Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary. Amen.