Yesterday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Pope Francis celebrated Mass to open the Synod of Bishops beginning three weeks of dialogue on the topic “The vocation and mission of the family in the church and the modern world.” Many ears will be tuned to the formal interventions and discussions of the 279 bishops and other representatives who participate on behalf of the people of God.
Few Synods have received as much widespread and diverse media coverage as this one. This is a good sign indicating the passion of the people and their hope that the Church will speak and act in a way that brings Christ to their complex lives. However media sound bites cannot be relied on to convey the life of God.
It is evident that many commentators view the synodal process in the same way as they do a political conference where the party is seeking to keep itself relevant to the trends and fashions of a fickle population. Note that the topic of the synod (above) emphasises “vocation” and “mission” and neither of these are human creations or activities. A vocation is given by God and our mission is the life of God which we receive, live and, in this way, share.
As Pope Francis reflected in his homily yesterday:
In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.
To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.
The Church is called to carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions.
Given the clarity of this message, some of those who are praying for change might wonder if there are any grounds for hoping for anything new from this synod. I am confident that we will receive exactly what we need from this synod, and that does not mean nothing new.
The new we need is an effective and life-giving communication capable of addressing and changing the tragic fact that most of the Catholics of our families and communities see the church as being more about rules and regulations than living in relationship with Jesus Christ who is the merciful and loving God among us.
So over the next three weeks especially, let us pray.