Synodality – October 2021

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help
Hebrews 4:16

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The prophets of the Old Testament foretold that God’s Spirit would rest upon the Messiah to sustain His mission. Their prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus the Messiah was conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus on the occasion of His baptism by John. Jesus’ entire mission occurred in communion with the Spirit. Before He died, Jesus promised that the Spirit would be given to the Apostles and to the entire Church. After His death, He was raised by the Father in the power of the Spirit.

On October 17 at St. James Cathedral, we will be celebrating a Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon adults through the Sacrament of Confirmation. These men and women have chosen to take on further study to enrich their faith journey. With great joy, they come from parishes all over the Diocese of Orlando knowing that the Sacrament of Confirmation deepens their baptismal life calling them to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world.  . . .  As baptized Catholics, we initially receive this message of faith. Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, these adults are filled with the Holy Spirit in a deeper and more intensive manner with great emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who asked the Father to give the Holy Spirit to the Church for building up the community in loving service.

It is fitting on this occasion that we join through our prayer, the people of God throughout the world, at the request of the Holy Father, to celebrate the official opening of a Synod convoked by Pope Francis, October 2021 to October 2023 with the theme, “For A Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”. Synodality is the way of being the Church today according to the will of God, in a dynamic of discerning and listening together to the voice of the Holy Spirit. For our part, my sisters and brothers in Christ, God asks us for a listening heart to hear the Word of God and a prayerful, discerning openness to His will as one body of Christ.  Journeying together – laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome – will require our offering to God with all our heart, with all our being, with all our strength, and with all our mind. Pope Francis said, “Journeying together . . . is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.”

The Scriptures of the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time point us to put these words into practice as we proclaim God’s message about the humble call for service for all the people.

Jesus tells us that being ‘great’ is not about how ‘high’ you are able to climb the ladder in a secular world. Jesus utterly rejects the vertical relationships and says, “But it shall not be so among you.” Jesus tells us that the only place of greatness is to be a servant, a servant of all the people, no matter our stand in society.

He showed us this throughout His earthly years. Christ the King came to us homeless, fed the people, healed the sick, washed the feet of His disciples, embraced the forsaken, touched the lepers, was tortured and in His last, offered Himself in forgiveness that we might have eternal life. He rejected rank and status – today we praise Him as High King of Heaven.

We must begin our servitude at the altar of God and receive His Body and Blood to nourish our soul. As we behold the Lamb of God, as we walk down the aisle of the church to receive Holy Communion, we are coming to be united with Jesus. We welcome Jesus and we prepare ourselves to step from this sacred moment into the next sacred moment as we become the body of Christ by serving others. Then, and only then, are we able to join with each other, to journey together as pilgrims, and become missionary People of God.

May we, in the Communion of Christ’s body, offer our humble service to confidently approach the throne of grace.

Behold I come to do Your will-December 2021

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word
Luke 1:38

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

At the beginning of this glorious season of Advent, we spoke about our journey of Synodality and a proclamation about our participation on this journey was distributed to you through various communication channels.  Since the announcement of our participation, there has been expressed a voiced longing from some of you to understand better what the process will be; what are we trying to do; and how will we know if we accomplished what we set out to do.

The Scripture of the season of Advent and particularly this Fourth Sunday of Advent is rich in the answers to your questions; however, the answers may not be what you seek.  Our journey of Synodality is more of a reminder of our purposeful being as God’s imprint upon this earth.  We make a promise, a Covenant with God, at Baptism to do God’s will throughout our life.  We promise to live as priest, prophet and king according to God’s law.  Our journey of Synodality begins with a commitment of each person individually to cry out to God joyfully, “Behold, I come to do Your will.”

No matter our age, that promise to do God’s will is one which we must consider 24/7/365.  It is a beautiful promise—it is the promise which Mary offers to God; it is the promise St. Joseph, her spouse, offers to God; it is the promise Jesus offers to the Father.  Theirs is a self-offering to focus on God and bring forth His love that the earth will join the Kingdom of heaven.  We can’t begin the journey, if we don’t look at ourselves with the eyes of God’s mercy and compassion and recognize our weaknesses and ways in which we step away from our focus on God.

The journey of Synodality requires us to listen.  For what are we listening?  We are listening for God’s whisper or thunder or trumpet or herald of angels.  Where are we going to hear these?  We hear them in every moment, in every encounter – if we only listen.  The encounter of God is not usually through an angel, as our Blessed Mother encountered.  Most likely, the encounter of God is an experience of Elizabeth who, by her greeting of Mary, her cousin, is able to recognize God and Mary’s mission to do God’s will.  The bearer of Christ mediates Christ into the world as she hugs her cousin and the Holy Spirit transcends their conversation as they speak about God’s plan before them.

We, too, encounter God through our parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, other family members, friends, teachers, bosses, the people who walk the streets, the people who may seem to be ‘in our way.’  Each one of us is of God and each one of us has something to add to salvation history.  How often do we speak to each other about God’s plan for us or how our day was filled with the Lord?  The journey of Synodality begins with an introspection of our lack and a true faith to say yes to God’s will.

Well, then, what is the ‘process’ for this journey of Synodality?  I hope the ‘process’ is that you and I will know God better and that in our own way we will be open to do His will, however we hear His call.  I hope the ‘process’ will help us to understand the importance of God’s self-offering which we receive through the Eucharist and He will nourish and guide us on this journey, if we ask Him.  The Eucharist is the reality of the theme of Advent, “the Lord is coming!”  I pray our introspection will lead us to participate in the Sacrament of Penance, to speak out loud how we long to be with God.

I pray that we stop looking to find a ‘process’ for the journey of Synodality and begin living God’s will every moment of every day because we are living our Baptismal promise.  May our heart leap for joy as we take up the journey of listening and living for God.  May our belief be blessed that what God has asked of each one of us will be fulfilled.