A Different Church In An Indifferent World | Word from the Shepherd No. 151

29th Ordinary Sunday B
Isa.53:10-11; Heb.4:14-16; Mk.10:42-45

On the 10th October 2021, at the inauguration mass of the Synodal Process, Pope Francis remarked that “there is no need for another Church, but to create a different Church”.

Why a “different church”? What did he mean? For him, the call of the Synod is to be open to this “different church”. He does not see a ‘static, ready-made and with sure answers for our everyday struggles’ church.  We are not a finished product, but in the process of change. A church relevant for all times bears these marks:

  1. It is a synodal Church: With structures set up for all to walk together, feel at home and participate in its life.
  2. It is a listening church: It breaks away from the routine to stop & listen; listen to the Spirit in prayer, to each other, their hopes, their crises of faith and their need for new pastoral life.
  3. It is a healing church like God, whose style was being present to all, always; close, compassionate and concerned; binding wounds, healing broken hearts with the touch of God.

To become this different church, we have to GO BACK. It is a ‘return’ to what we had lost, to regain the lost grace.

  1. Going Back to the Vatican II blueprint but now it is to put it into action those beautiful printed words.
  2. Going Back to our Baptism to re-live the 3 Calls
    • our call to communion which is our union and connectedness to God, the Body of Christ, and to each other
    • our call to mission which is our serving in apostolic commitment. A faith expressed and lived.
    • our call to participation, which is our ecclesial commitment to enable each other via real involvement.
  3. Going Back to the Spirit as this Synod is a grace-filled event. The Holy Spirit is invoked, listened to, and to sense the ecclesial movement. The pope added: “Without the Spirit, there is no Synod”.
  4. Going Back to Gospel to read with the signs of the time, not ‘acts of dogmatic proclamations
  5. Going Back to the Synodal Process, which includes encountering, listening and discerning. It has to be an entering into authentic spiritual discernment, not a church convention, a parliament, a political gathering or study group. It means also avoiding three risks ie coming with elitist, intellectualistic and complacent attitudes.

Will this happen? Will be seeing this newness and freshness? The entering into the Synodal Process, being docile to the Spirit and authentic spiritual listening is sure to awake the giant. This what we can expect because the scripture says: “if you draw close to Me, I will draw near to you”. Again we can expect three shifts.

  1. We will see more and hear more. Bonhoeffer called it ‘view from below’, and Pope John XXIII called it “open the window”. What happens when one opens the window? (Fresh air flows in. We hear what the outside people are saying. We invite hard questions. The hierarchy is disturbed.)
  2. We will see the Church’s own conversion. A new way of understanding and approaching mission emerges, which is more intentional and missionary, not guarding a museum.
  3. We will see the peripheries take the centre. The ‘far, distant, at the fringes’ dioceses come to be heard. The church listens, hears, softens, converts and integrates.
    Expect to see them.

A look at the logo of the Synod 2021-2023, provides us the right perspectives and ecclesiology for things to happen. The coming together depends on 9 elements: the tree, the cross, the Eucharist, the branches, the people, the entirety and diversity, the colours, the no-hierarchy and the theme.

In addition to the above, the readings provide the self-view essential for a synodal, listening and healing church

  1. Embrace suffering and the cup to save others like Isaiah’s suffering servant and Jesus.
  2. Renounce personal agenda and the desire for places and positions.
  3. Come to Jesus, the throne of grace who felt our weaknesses and temptations

Be a Different Church in an indifferent world – that’s what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.