After a day of rest, the Synod Fathers took their places in the Synod Aula to continue our work on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. The Synod process models an important teaching for all of us, a teaching first introduced by St. Benedict who insisted that every monk, no matter how young, should bring his voice to the discussion. How important that is both on the diocesan and parish level. We need to listen to our people, let them voice their opinion and learn from their insights. Each has something to say.
So far we have heard almost 200 five-minute presentations. While that might seem as if it would be boring and tedious (there have been such times for sure), it has been more than anything fascinating to hear the topic each bishop chooses from the Instrumentum and how he expands on that theme, most often based on his pastoral experience.
Today we heard how Sacred Scripture is the background for the Church’s teaching on social justice. So many sections of the Bible emphasize the exercise of charity. Specifically one of the Synod Fathers talked about welcoming the stranger, the immigrant, the person on the move.
It was mentioned that we ought to encourage immigrants to bring with them the Word of God. Often in our desert, Samaritans find religious articles, prayer cards, rosaries, even Bibles left behind on people’s journey north through the Sonoran Desert. Many migrants are people of simple, deep faith who find hope in God’s Word that life can be better.
The Scriptures remind us to receive the stranger as a guest, God in disguise.
There was more discussion about the section of the Instrumentum on ecumenism and the hope that we could find intercommunion in the Word. Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland reminded us that listening to the Word of God together can be a path to unity. He acknowledged the contribution of Protestant scripture scholars.
I remember fondly the opportunities we have in the Diocese and in many Dioceses to participate in ecumenical prayer services around Thanksgiving or during Christian Unity Week. These are privileged moments when we as followers of Christ can set aside our differences and join in common prayer with the Word of God.
A challenge was given by one of the Synod Fathers asking how we might carry the Word of God to those who never come to Church or who have left the household of faith. How can we bring the Word into the marketplace? This is a perplexing challenge and one I struggle with a lot. Most ears are not open to hearing the Word.
I hope the Synod might think of new and creative strategies to invite and persuade people to open their ears to God’s Word. The Bishop suggested that we cannot simply condemn or dismiss those who have strayed or not yet encountered Christ. We need to entice them with God’s Word to a new way of living, the way of Christ.
This Lent in the Diocese we are planning to develop a program on reconciliation. The initiative will attempt to reach out to those marginalized or alienated from the Church to invite them to come back home. This is so critical today when so many live their lives without Christ.
Today the Synod Fathers received a gift from the Holy Father. Instead of an afternoon session we were invited to join Pope Benedict XVI at St. Paul Outside the Walls for an evening concert as part of the VII International Festival of Music and Sacred Heart.
Before the concert we had an opportunity to visit the tomb of St. Paul, which has only recently been made accessible to view. It is a moving experience to participate in the scavi tour at St. Peter’s and now at St. Paul’s.
These early apostles ground our faith. Their faith and witness of giving of their lives for Christ strengthens us in our faith.
The Holy Father enjoys and delights in music, being a musician himself. He experiences in music the sacred and divine. The concert was most delightful and filled with the beauty that opens the heart to God.