We have just returned home from a family weekend in Canberra celebrating our son’s 40th birthday. It was a great party, as he and wife opened their home to their family and many friends, on what was to be a very chilly evening. However, the warmth of the love shared by those gathered kept people there, as they shared their mutual connections and the joy of coming together after a year of COVID restrictions. Needless to say, I am feeling rather weary but proud of the adult person and his family which we have been part of creating. It was lovely to hear the admiration that both men and women shared with us of Gerard. The privilege and responsibility of parenting continues even as your children reach independence and adulthood.
We begin a new week, and I am conscious that over the next few weeks, Bishop Bill will be conducting reflection days across our diocese with the hope of meeting with many of you to reflect upon and contemplate:
- Francis’ vison of our future Church
- Our Australian experience
- What is possible in the future?
I think the readings from this Sunday may help us as we gather with Bishop Bill. I read in the commentary from my Sunday Missal the following words for this second Sunday of Easter:
Our belief in the teachings and resurrection of Jesus prompts us to be a part of the Christian community. In turn, our experience of Christian community strengthens our faith. It was only when Thomas was with the other disciples that he met the risen Christ and came to believe in him. It is a simple truth that faith builds community and community builds faith.
I believe this is part of the very essence of our diocesan synod.
We are very used to hearing the following words about Thomas from John’s Gospel (John 20:19 – 31)
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
We are being invited to experience another opportunity to gather with people of faith, to listen to Bishop Bill, to each other and to the Spirit as we prepare for our diocesan synod.
Over the past week, I have provided some briefing sessions for delegates to the diocesan synod. The following words form part of Appendix C that accompanies the Synod Directory regarding the commissioning and appointment of members of synod:
Nominations for delegates were called for from members of the diocese so that those who participate in the synod are a true reflection of the entire portion of the people of God who constitute the diocese, taking account of the different regions of the diocese, of social conditions and professions, and of the part played in the apostolate by the members.
Delegates will then be appointed by the Bishop into one of the following categories as members of synod:
Synod Member – Synod members will be required to sign the Profession of Faith and the Oath of Fidelity. They would be able to speak from the floor of synod and would have voting rights.
Observers – according to Canon 463 §3 the bishop can invite ministers or members of other Christian Churches or ecclesial communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who have a close connection to the diocese, to be synod observers. They may wish to contribute to the discussions of synod but have no voting rights.
Synod Participant – Some of those who have been invited to be delegates may not be in a position to sign the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity. They have been invited because of their commitment to the vision of the diocese/parishes and their assistance in delivering the mission of the Church. Their knowledge and experience may contribute to the Synod discussions and so they have a voice but no voting rights.
Interested People - there may be people who wish to be invited because of their interest in the Catholic Church and the work of the synod and/or who are unable to be synod members because of the substantial commitment required. They may be present at sessions of synod with neither voice nor voting rights.
These commissionings will take place during the Mass as part of the six Bishop’s Reflection Days (13 April – 4 May) and letters of appointment will follow.
Some of you will be now aware that we have expanded the categories of those who can be members of synod and this week I will work on providing a method for those who may wish to be present at the synod as Interested People.
In writing this message the following words from the Sunday reading from John’s Gospel resonated with me and our synod processes:
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”
We have been commissioned, sent and are being sent, having received the Holy Spirit as people of faith within a faith community. I hear the voices of those who share the doubts and fears of Thomas and who are struggling. These voices are in each of us, and I offer this prayer of the Collect of Sunday’s Mass for this week:
God of everlasting mercy,
who in the very recurrence of the pascal feast
kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,
increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,
that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed,
by whose Spirit they have been reborn,
by whose Blood they have been redeemed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
I trust that I will encounter some of you as I travel across the diocese with Bishop Bill, not only to listen to him but to connect with each of you. The next 40 days of preparation are most important. Please keep praying for the gift of grace and wisdom and the words to express what is in our hearts.