VATICAN CITY – Synod calls on everyone to become experts in “the art of encounter” in uplifting and transformative way, Pope Francis said, officially opening process leading to Synod of Bishops assembly in 2023 .
“To celebrate a synod is to walk on the same path, together”, as Jesus did – to meet, listen and discern with all those one meets, declared the Pope in his homily during the mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on October 10.
“Are we ready for the adventure of this trip? Or are we afraid of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it like this?’ He asked.
Some 3,000 people attended Mass, including the 270 people – cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay people – invited to the day of reflection in the Vatican synod hall on October 9.
The weekend of events has started the “Synodal Journey”, which will explore the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”. Bishops around the world were to open the process in their dioceses on October 17. The diocesan phase, which runs until April, will focus on listening and consulting the people of God.
In his homily, the Pope said that they should begin the synodal process “by asking all of us – Pope, Bishops, priests, religious and lay people – if we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and participations in the life of humanity.
Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 10, 17-30) of Jesus going on a trip and meeting a wealthy man offers just one example of how Jesus “walks alongside people and listens to questions and questions. concerns lurking in their hearts, ”he said. . “He shows us that God is not in neat and orderly places, far from reality, but always walks by our side. “
To celebrate a synod, he says, is to walk on the same path as the others and to live the “three verbs” which characterize a synod: to meet, to listen and to discern.
“We too are called to become experts in the art of dating. Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about problems as by taking the time to meet the Lord and one another, ”devote time to prayer and worship, and to listen to what the Saint -Spirit means to the church, said the Pope.
Jesus shows that an encounter has the power to change someone’s life – “the gospel is full of such encounters with Christ, encounters that uplift and heal,” the Pope said. In fact, Jesus was never in a hurry, and he would never have looked at a watch to signal that it was time to wrap up. “He was always at the service of the people he met to listen to them.
Each meeting requires “openness, courage and a willingness to let oneself be challenged by the presence and the stories of others”, declared the Pope. It does not mean hiding behind a facade or rigid formalities indicating a spirit of clericalism or courtier, but it does mean being a father.
To that end, the Pope said he would meet a group of people living on the streets later in the day. He said that they had already started to meet because another group of people had gone to listen to them and from there, “they could start the journey”.
Sincere listening involves the heart, not just the ears, said Pope Francis. The goal is not to be able to answer people’s questions, especially with prepackaged or “artificial and superficial” answers, but to give the opportunity to tell your story and to express yourself freely.
“Whenever we listen with the heart, people feel that they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to share their own experiences and their spiritual journey, ”he said.
Listening to one another “is a slow and perhaps tiring exercise”, but it must be done, including listening to “the questions, concerns and hopes of every church, people and nation”, and “challenges”. and changes ”presented by the world, he added.
Meeting and listening “are not ends in themselves” where everything remains the same, but must lead to discernment, he said.
“Each time we start a dialogue, we allow ourselves to be challenged, to move forward on a path. And in the end, we are not the same anymore; we have changed, ”he said.
The synod is “a path of spiritual discernment that takes place in adoration, prayer and dialogue with the word of God,” said the Pope.
Discernment is what lights the path and guides the synod, “preventing it from becoming a church convention, study group, or political congress, but rather a graceful event, a healing process guided by the synod. Holy Spirit, ”Pope Francis said. .
As he asked of the rich man in the Gospel reading, Jesus asks everyone “to empty themselves, to free themselves from all that is mundane, including our introverted and outdated pastoral models, and to ask themselves what what God wants to tell us right now and the direction in which he wants to lead us, ”he said.
Pope Francis wished everyone “a safe journey together! May we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Spirit.