TUESDAYS WITH TERESA - Our Synodal Journey

We are many parts, but we are one body.

The coming of the Holy Spirit, fifty days after the feast of the Resurrection, is followed by our celebrating and reflecting on the mysteries of our faith – the Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. These elements of our faith, while beyond our grasp to comprehend, hold for us the deep mysteries of our faith as believers in God as Father, Son and Spirit, made visible in the life of Jesus who left us the Eucharist to nourish and sustain us as missionary disciples. We also recall that at the institution of our Eucharist, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, so that we might also do the same.

From John’s Gospel (6:51-58) we hear:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

Our life in this world is to serve our brothers and sisters. In my readings through the week, I have been struck by the notion of communion, of our being one with God, each other, and creation. This is what we heard while listening to the second reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 10:16-17)

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

In May of 2017, Bishop Bill Wright began a journey in the diocese that became known as Many Parts. One Body. One Mission. Since that time, this vision has been the guiding principle for many changes that have taken place across our diocese. We have been asked to look beyond our silos and to become one. As the chorus of the hymn, We Are Many Parts, from Marty Haugen says:

We are many parts
We are all one body
And the gifts we have
We are given to share
May the spirit of love, make us one indeed
One, the love that we share
One, our hope in despair
One, the cross that we bear.

Those of us continuing to live through this change know that many have borne the cross, not only because change can be difficult, but because the path we tread is uncharted. The invitation from Bishop Bill was for us to be one, to be united in our mission, God’s mission, in our diocese.

This synodal path is one that we encounter in the doing and in our being, as it was for Moses and the Israelites in the desert, where their inmost heart was tested. They felt hunger and thirst and yet they were fed and watered. God was their constant and this is what we are being invited to trust. Though we are many, we form a single body because we share this one loaf. However, this does not remove our struggle.

And to share with you the words from the chorus of another hymn, One Love Released by Bob Frenzell and Kevin Keil:

One bread one body, one cup, one call,
One faith, one Spirit present in us all.
One prayer, one blessing, one hope, one peace,
One church, one people, one love released.

Presently, I am teaching a unit on Sacraments in the Christian Formation Course and this week I will be covering the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. For me, this unit comes at an ideal time in our liturgical year with these great feasts, and then on Friday 16 June we celebrate The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. On this day the reading from Deuteronomy begins with these words:

Moses said to the people: ‘You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.

We have been chosen out of love for love, and our sacraments are a constant reminder of God’s love for us, and this call by God, to follow and to serve.

I finish this week’s message with the reading from the first letter of St John (1 Jn 4:7-16) for the Feast of the Sacred Heart, an image that I grew up with above our mantle piece, my mum’s favourite image of Jesus:

My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.
My dear people,
since God has loved us so much,
we too should love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
but as long as we love one another
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us.
We can know that we are living in him
and he is living in us
because he lets us share his Spirit.
We ourselves saw and we testify
that the Father sent his Son
as saviour of the world.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God lives in him, and he in God.
We ourselves have known and put our faith in
God’s love towards ourselves.
God is love
and anyone who lives in love lives in God,
and God lives in him.

I believe this reading sums up our faith, and what I am trying to reveal in my teaching to those in the Christian Formation Course. There are not words for us to describe God, the mysteries of our faith or love. I find our hymns and works of art help us with our encounter, but even then, they are not enough for us to fathom the depths of this great mystery we call life.

As one who sits with you in this mystery,

Teresa Brierley
Director Pastoral Ministries
13 June 2023

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Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.