As I sit at my desk, I am conscious that we have had a cold and wet weekend, reminding us that winter is almost here. I hope you enjoy the following story:
The phone rang as we came in from Mass and Spencer, our five-year-old grandson’s voice said “hello” followed by the question: “If God created the world in seven days, how did the dinosaurs disappear so quickly before God created humans?” How is that for a deep question, evidently, one that he had been pondering all day. I wonder how you might go answering this question to a five-year-old. I must admit that I was very excited that he is asking such deep questions, and then contacting me for a possible answer. I hope God’s continuous creation leaves you with an abiding sense of mystery, awe, and wonder.
I spent today reading some diocesan responses to the Bishop’s Synod on Synodality. Like our grandson, there are many people seeking answers to profound questions, as to how we are being called by the Spirit to be Church at this present time.
The early Christian communities were also pondering how to be a community of diverse groups. Sunday’s Second Reading from Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles provided us with part of the account of the Council of Jerusalem, the very first church council. The followers of Jesus were trying to work out what rules were required to be part of this group of disciples. Was it essential to be circumcised to be saved? We have the apostles and the elders meeting together to consider the matter. This is much like our diocesan synod, the Plenary Council, and the Synod on Synodality. There was much debate and Peter proclaims that “we will be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus”. Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, who along with Barnabas and Paul, were sent with a letter to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, with the following words:
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. (Acts 15:28-29)
I am very aware that we are approaching the second Assembly of the Plenary Council and many words were initially submitted as part of the listening and dialogue phase, responding to the question: “What is God asking of us in Australia at this time?” You might recall that these words were sifted down into papers around six themes.
How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church that is:
- Missionary and evangelising
- Inclusive, participatory and synodal
- Prayerful and Eucharistic
- Humble, healing and merciful
- A joyful, hope-filled and servant community
- Open to conversion, renewal and reform
I hope like me, now, when you look back on these six themes/questions about being a Christ-centred Church, you are struck by how profound the six themes are, and what we are being called to. In a recent webinar, the presenter invited us not to focus too much on the direct outcomes of the Plenary Council, but on the process of synodality that has begun and will continue. I invite you not to get too caught up in what might appear to be the limitations of the recommendations that emerge. Let us remember that we are part of an evolving and emerging community of believers.
The early Christian communities were battling with profound questions for their time and held the Council of Jerusalem, and here we are in 2022 pondering further deep questions for us as a community of believers. The tensions are real.
So now going to Sunday’s Gospel from John (14:23 – 29), we are reminded that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything that Jesus has said.
Peace, I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
I think the prayer of St Francis reminds us of what this peace looks like for followers of Jesus Christ:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be
consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I hope you consider joining in our Plenary Council virtual ‘Coffee Conversations’ during June with our Plenary Council members. We are eagerly awaiting the Plenary Council papers from the Drafting Committee. I believe that there will be eight topics, with a preamble and motions for our conversation and consideration.
On this feast day of our Patroness, Our Lady Help of Christians (24 May), let’s pray for those who will be attending the Plenary Council and let us also pray for those who have been elected, over the weekend, to govern us for the next three years.
Almighty God, deepen in our hearts
our love of Mary Help of Christians.
Through her prayers and under her protection,
may the light of Christ shine over our land.
May Australia be granted harmony, justice and peace.
Grant wisdom to our leaders and integrity to our citizens.
Bless especially the men and women
of the Australian Defence Force and their families.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us.