10/10/2021, 13.13
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Synod: Pope, not an ecclesial 'convention' but a journey of listening and sharing

"Today Jesus calls us, as he did the rich man in the Gospel, to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from all that is worldly, including our inward-looking and outworn pastoral models; and to ask ourselves what it is that God wants to say to us in this time. And the direction in which he wants to lead us."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Participating in a Synod means walking on the same path, walking together", it is "listening to the questions, the anxieties, the hopes of every Church, of every people and nation. And also to listen to the world, to the challenges and changes that it puts before us".

Celebrating solemn mass this morning in St Peter's, Pope Francis opened the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission". About 3,000 people were present, including cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity.

The Synod, admonishes Francis, " a Church convention, a study group or a political congress, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit."

Taking his cue from the episode in today's Gospel, of the "rich young man" (Mt 19:20-22), the Pope indicated the path in three verbs, "meet, listen, discern". "Today Jesus calls us, as he did the rich man in the Gospel, to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from all that is worldly, including our inward-looking and outworn pastoral models; and to ask ourselves what it is that God wants to say to us in this time. And the direction in which he wants to lead us".

First of all, Jesus, in the encounter, " is not stand aloof; he does not appear annoyed or disturbed. Instead, he is completely present to this person. He is open to encounter. Nothing leaves Jesus indifferent; everything is of concern to him Encountering faces, meeting eyes, sharing each individual’s history. That is the closeness that Jesus embodies. He knows that someone’s life can be changed by a single encounter ".

" As we initiate this process, we too are called to become experts in the art of encounter. Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about problems, as in taking time to encounter the Lord and one another. Time to devote to prayer and adoration, listening to what the Spirit wants to say to the Church. Time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build rapport, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers, to let ourselves be enriched by the variety of charisms, vocations and ministries. Every encounter – as we know – calls for openness, courage and a willingness to let ourselves be challenged by the presence and the stories of others. While sometimes we prefer to shelter in formal relationships or wear masks of circumstance - the clerical and courtly spirit: I am more monsieur l'abbé than father -, the encounter changes us and often suggests new paths that we did not think we would take".

Secondly, listening. " This is how God so often points out new paths, and invites us to leave our old habits behind. Everything changes once we are capable of genuine encounters with him and with one another, without formalism or pretense, but simply as we are. The second verb is listen. True encounter arises only from listening. Jesus listened to that man’s question and to the religious and existential concerns that lay behind it. He did not give a non-committal reply or offer a prepackaged solution; he did not pretend to respond politely, simply as a way of dismissing him and continuing on his way. Jesus listens. He is not afraid to listen with his heart and not just with his ears. Indeed, he does more than simply answer the rich man’s question; he lets him tell his story, to speak freely about himself. Christ reminds him of the commandments, and the man starts to talk about his youth, to share his religious journey and his efforts to seek God. This happens whenever we listen with the heart: people feel that they are being heard, not judged. It is a slow, perhaps tiring exercise, to learn to listen to each other - bishops, priests, religious and laity, everyone, all the baptised - avoiding artificial and superficial answers, ready-made answers, no".

And therefore, discerning. "Meeting and listening to each other is not something that is an end in itself, that leaves things as they are. On the contrary, when we enter into dialogue, we question ourselves, we are on the way, and in the end we are not the same as before, we are changed". "The Word opens us up to discernment and illuminates it. It guides the Synod so that it is not an ecclesial 'convention', a study conference or a political congress, so that it is not a parliament, but an event of grace, a healing process led by the Spirit. In these days Jesus calls us, as he did with the rich man in the Gospel, to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from what is worldly, and also from our closures and our repetitive pastoral models; to ask ourselves what God wants to say to us in this time and towards what direction he wants to lead us".

The Pope also spoke about the "rich young man" at the Angelus, underlining the "commercial" aspect of the question he asks Jesus: "What must I do to have eternal life?" " “Notice the verbs he uses: “must do” – “inherit”. Here is his religiosity: a duty, a doing so as to obtain; I do something to get what I need”. But this is a commercial relationship with God, a quid pro quo. Faith, on the other hand, is not a cold, mechanical ritual, a “must-do-obtain”. It is a question of freedom and love. Here is a first test: what is faith for me? If it is mainly a duty or a bargaining chip, we are off track, because salvation is a gift and not a duty, it is free and cannot be bough ". Jesus, in fact, shows him the "true face" of God, which is love and acceptance.

When, finally, Jesus says to him "sell everything and follow me" there is gift and gratuitousness. "A faith without gift and gratuitousness is incomplete, it is a weak, sick faith.  We could compare it to a rich and nutritious food that lacks flavour, or to a well-played game without a goal".

"Today we can ask ourselves: 'Where does my faith stand? Do I live it as something mechanical, as a relationship of duty or interest with God? Do I remember to nourish it by letting myself be looked at and loved by Jesus? And, attracted by Him, do I respond with gratuitousness?".

After the recitation of the Marian prayer, on World Mental Health Day, Francis recalled "the brothers and sisters suffering from mental disorders and also the victims, often young, of suicide. Let us pray for them and for their families, so that they are not left alone or discriminated against, but welcomed and supported".

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