This morning 8 August 2019, on the Solemnity of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Bishop Bill convoked a Diocesan Synod for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
The first celebration will be held on 23 November 2019.
Listen to Bishop Bill's homily
Transcript of the homily given at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton, on 8 August, 2019
It is a solemn occasion. I have a few moments ago by proxy done something that I have never done before, convoked a Diocesan Synod. A synod is not simply an event, nor is it simply an assembly of people. It is a process by which the people of God walk together a journey, trying to respond more fully to God.
Very frequently, synods are convened for a special purpose, or particular issue. But this one that we will hold is like the Second Vatican Council, convened more generally.
To examine, reflect on the state, the church, the faith of Christ among us and to find ways to more faithfully fulfil our calling to be the body of Christ and the witness to His gospel and His salvation in our community around us.
I have said it’s not simply an event or a gathering. In fact, the synod that we will have will be spread over several years.
We will begin formally with an event, a day of prayer, and of thought, here on the Saturday before the Feast of Christ the King. At the end of this year, on 23 November. Then the first session of the synod will take place a full year later. In the meantime, in our communities, we will be gathering to think, to pray, to seek out, from a process of discernment where God will speak to us things that are important for us, as we try and move forward more faithfully as Christ’s church.
All of that input will then be gathered together in the formal session of the synod, discussing, and discerning together from all that has come in from the people of God.
Then there will be another full year, where we take those directions, the thoughts, and plans that have emerged and turn them into practical realities.
We gather yet again a year later to do the formal work, of translating those things, our aspirations and our great plans into perhaps the structures, the positions, the laws, the ways that we will move forward at that practical and concrete level.
So that’s what we’ve just been doing. Convoking a synod is a process, a journey for us together over a couple of years starting from now really, but particularly from the beginning session and liturgy at the end of this year.
It’s good that we’ve done it on the feast of Mary MacKillop because in many ways Mary represents for us the type of church that we do aspire to be.
The scriptures were chosen to reflect to us some qualities of Mary MacKillop.
Her generosity in poverty like the widow there in the first reading [Kings 17:7-16] who having little, none the less shared it with God’s prophet and all went well.
The gospel asks us to reflect on Mary MacKillop’s great serenity. Do not worry, do not be concerned about what are we to eat, or what are we to drink.
The great freedom that the faith of Mary MacKillop gave her, and the young women who gathered around her, went to extraordinary places in our country without obvious means of support, and did their thing not worrying. Mary MacKillop was one of those who, as we were instructed by the Lord in the gospel, sought first the kingdom of God, knowing that the other things needed would be given to her.
So we go forward in that spirit.
The middle reading, St Paul writing to the Colossians, is worth picking up and reflecting upon for some considerable time.
It has some precious words in it. You are God’s saints and He loves you. Then it lists off the things you should be clothed with: sincere compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bear with one another, forgive one another as soon as a quarrel begins. Over all these things to keep them together, put on love. May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts.
There is in some of those words, in all of those words really, the kind of church that we would aspire to be. As a people in our parish communities and individually, that we might be marked as the people of Christ, the chosen race. Marked by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and putting on over all of that, a love that reflects the love of Christ.
Now as we prepare, they are the things we aspire to. As individual Christians, as Christian communities, as a Diocese, and ultimately as the Church in Australia. We aspire to be that sort of a people.
As we move towards our Synod, we hear the other exhortation of Christ speaking through St Paul, as to how we come together.
May the message of Christ in all its richness find a home in you.
That’s where we think about who we are to be. By the message of Christ, the message of His life as much as His teaching.
Then we come together to teach each other, advise each other in all wisdom, with gratitude in your hearts. Never say or do anything except in the name of Lord Jesus. Giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
So as the Ceremonial of Bishops remarked, what we do is not simply about administration, it is about being the sacrament that the church is called to be. The sacrament that the individual baptised Christian is. The sacrament, the sign of God’s power at work that any parish, any community is called to be; that we as a Diocese are called to be.
As we move towards our Synod we let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts, and we try to let the message of Christ in all its richness find its place in us. Then we might share with each other what all of that is about, and how we can better be that message of Christ incarnated in a people, in this place and time.
I would ask you all to keep constantly in your prayers the Synod, invoking the presence of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us all. And asking Mary MacKillop (the unofficial patron), first saint of our country, for her prayers for us, as we journey together to try and serve the Lord, and shine the light in our place, as she did in her place and time.