Synodality and the Human Family

Why does the journey towards building a synodal Church appear like the ascent up a steep and rugged hill?

Some years ago, four friends and I agreed to hike up a steep mountain. On the way to the starting point, I observed a bottle of whiskey and few glasses in the car. At the foot of the mountain, two of them suggested that the three stronger climbers go ahead, and they would straggle behind. On the upward climb, there was no sight of the other two. Notwithstanding, we continued, exhilarated by the adrenaline of the climb, the spectacular summit view, and the descent, at the end of which we were greeted by our two companions sitting on a rock drinking scotch on the rocks.  

A synodal church involves the People of God walking together on mission, listening to each other and the Holy Spirit in a process of discerning, deciding, implementing, and evaluating. The power of decision-making rests in the hands of the community. The discerning and decision-making process is tedious, winding, and time-consuming, as opposed to the easier way of abdicating decision-making into the clenched fists of a few individuals. 

The enemy of this communal and participatory way of decision-making is the whiskey of self-gratification that grounds our motives and our interests. Joan Chittister reminds us that we are socialized to work for ourselves alone. What’s most important is our money, status, security, and not the quality of the community or society as a whole (The Monastic Heart). It’s easier to inebriate ourselves with the tired and worn-out paradigm of the few deciding for the whole, enforcing the decision, and dragging the whole along.

A synodal Church says, “No! As a team of hikers, we should have started and ended together. No one should be left behind. The weak and the strong travel together. The three should not leave behind the others at the start of the ascent.” Synodality invites conversion from self-gratification to communal gratification, thinking of the needs of the parish or family community, the human family, the societal and global community. 

We are all in the same boat. Together we form the Body of Christ. Setting aside the mirage of self-sufficiency, we are able to learn from each other, journey together, and be at the service of one another” (Vadamecum, 2.3).

One thought on “Synodality and the Human Family

  1. Fr Don what I am concerned about is how much of the clergy understand the full meaning of Synodality or, if they do, how many are prepared to commit fully to it? As usual your reflection is excellent. Thank you.

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