God is not … far from reality, but always walks by our side.
“Are we ready for the adventure of this trip? Pope Francis asked for it during Holy Mass on October 10. Mass was the solemn opening of the Synod on Synodality, a two-year process that aims to bring the whole Church into a time of listening and discernment.
Here is the full text of the Pope’s homily:
A rich man approached Jesus “as he was setting out” (Mk 10:17). The Gospels frequently show us Jesus “on a journey”; he walks alongside people and listens to the questions and concerns that lurk in their hearts. He shows us that God is not in neat and orderly places, far from reality, but always walks by our side. He meets us where we are, on the often rocky paths of life. Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves – all of us, the Pope, bishops, priests, religious and lay people – if we, the Christian community, embody this “style” of God, which follows the paths of God. history and shares the life of humanity. Are we ready for the adventure of this trip? Or are we afraid of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: “It’s useless” or “We’ve always done it like that”?
To celebrate a Synod is to walk on the same path, to walk together. Let’s look at Jesus. First he met the rich man on the road; Then he listen to his questions, and finally he helps him discern what he must do to inherit eternal life. Meet, listen and discern. I would like to reflect on these three verbs which characterize the Synod.
The first is meet. The Gospel passage begins by talking about a meeting. A man approaches Jesus and kneels before him, asking him a crucial question: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (v. 17). Such an important issue requires attention, time, a willingness to meet others and a sensitivity to what troubles them. The Lord is not apart; he doesn’t seem bothered or bothered. Instead, it is completely present to that person. He is open to meeting. Nothing leaves Jesus indifferent; everything concerns him. Meet faces, meet looks, share each other’s story. It is the closeness that Jesus embodies. He knows that someone’s life can be changed with just one encounter. The Gospel is full of such encounters with Christ, encounters that uplift and heal. Jesus did not rush and keep looking at his watch to end the meeting. He was always of service to whoever he was with, listening to what he had to say.
By initiating this process, we too are called to become experts in the meeting art. Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about issues, as taking the time to meet the Lord and one another. Time to devote to prayer and worship – that form of prayer that we so often neglect – to devote time to worship, and to listen to what the Spirit wants to say to the Church. Time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build relationships, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers, to let ourselves be enriched by the variety of charisms and vocations. and ministries. Each meeting – as we know – requires openness, courage and the will to let oneself be challenged by the presence and the stories of others. If sometimes we prefer to take refuge in formality or present the right image – the clerical and courteous spirit, where I am more The Reverend than Father – the experience of the encounter changes us; often this opens up new and unexpected possibilities. Following today’s Angelus, I’m going to meet a group of street people who have come together simply because a group of people made an effort to listen to them, sometimes just to listen to them. And from this listening, they managed to embark on a new path. So often God points out new paths in this way. He invites us to get out of our old ways. Everything changes as soon as we are capable of authentic encounters with him and with each other, without formalism or pretense, but simply as we are.
The second verb is Listen. The real encounter only occurs in listening. Jesus listened to this man’s question and the religious and existential concerns behind it. He did not give a non-binding response or offer a prepackaged solution; he didn’t pretend to respond politely, just to dismiss him and continue on his way. Jesus just listens, however long it takes; he is not in a hurry. Above all, he is not afraid listen to it with your heart and not just with his ears. Indeed, it does more than just answer the rich man’s question; he lets him tell his story, speak freely about himself. Christ reminds him of the commandments, and man begins to speak of his youth, to share his religious journey and his efforts to seek God. This happens every time we listen with the heart: people feel they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to share their own experiences and their spiritual journey.
We ask ourselves frankly during this synodal process: 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? To participate in a Synod is to put oneself on the same path as the Word made flesh. It means following in his footsteps, listening to his word along with that of others. It is discovering with wonder that the Holy Spirit always surprises us, offering us new paths and new ways of speaking. It is a slow and perhaps tiring exercise, this learning to listen to one another – bishops, priests, religious and laity, all the baptized – and to avoid artificial, empty and pre-packaged responses. The Spirit asks us to listen to the questions, concerns, and hopes of every church, people, and nation. And to listen to the world, the challenges and the changes it offers us. Do not soundproof our hearts; do not remain barricaded in our certainties. So often our certainties can make us closed. Let’s listen to each other.
Ultimately, discern. Meeting and listening are not ends in themselves, leaving everything as before. On the contrary, each time we start a dialogue, we allow ourselves to be challenged, to move forward on a path. And in the end, we are not the same anymore; we are changed. We see it in today’s Gospel. Jesus feels that the person in front of him is a good and religious man, obedient to the commandments, but he wants to lead him beyond the simple observance of the precepts. Through dialogue, he helps him to discern. Jesus encourages this man to look within him, in the light of the love that the Lord himself showed by his gaze (cf. v. 21), and to discern in that light what his heart truly cherishes. And thus discover that he cannot achieve happiness by filling his life with more religious observances, but by emptying himself, by selling everything that takes up space in his heart, to make room for God.
Here is a valuable lesson for us as well. The Synod is a process of spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, which takes place in adoration, prayer and dialogue with the word of God. Today’s second reading tells us that the word of God is “alive and working, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart ”(Heb 4:12). This word calls us to discernment and it illuminates this process. It guides the Synod, preventing it from becoming a church convention, study group or political gathering, parliament, but rather a graceful event, a healing process guided by the Spirit. In these days, Jesus calls us, as he did the rich man of the Gospel, to empty us, to free us from all that is worldly, including our introverted and outdated pastoral models; and ask ourselves what God wants to tell us at this time. And the direction in which he wants to lead us.
Dear brothers and sisters, have a good trip together! May we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. Let us not miss the opportunities full of grace born of meeting, listening and discernment. In the joyful conviction that, even though we seek the Lord, he always comes with his love to meet us first.