A Catholic faithful prays during the celebration of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, in Cali, Colombia, on March 2. (Photo: AFP)
Even a cursory reading of the Gospels leads us to encounter a Jesus who is always on the move.
As an itinerant preacher who scarcely had a place to lay his head and whose message of healing was given to all — especially to the sick and the dispossessed — Jesus unceasingly pointed out a different way of being: God’s reign, the Kingdom.
As his disciples, we too are called to walk with him, not literally but nonetheless very really.
Vatican II defined the Catholic Church very well as a “pilgrim Church” — a people on their way to the Father, inspired and guided by the Spirit of the Risen Jesus, in a community that accepts everyone and excludes none.
How does one walk with Jesus today? What does it mean to walk with the Risen Jesus? Perhaps the Emmaus story offers us a clue.
As the story tells it, most of us will not recognize Jesus when we meet him. But in conversation with him, strange things begin to take place — we gain insights into our past, we make sense of our failures, and we are reconciled to past grief.
This is also what synodality means. Walking in the Spirit, being open to the Spirit, always attuned to the Spirit. Pope Francis defined it as the essence of the Church
And like those first disciples, we recognize him at the breaking of bread. Whenever we share whatever little we have with strangers and wayfarers, our eyes are opened, and the Risen Jesus makes himself powerfully present. This is what it means to walk with the Risen Lord.
This is also what synodality means. Walking in the Spirit, being open to the Spirit, always attuned to the Spirit. Pope Francis defined it as the essence of the Church.
Lent reminds us of this even more graphically. In the words of Prophet Joel, it is a time to return and repent, to be concerned about “transforming our hearts, not just tearing our clothes.”
For the Church, to be is to be synodal. Therefore the three sub-themes of synodality form three aspects of the Lenten message. Let’s say a word about each.
Call to communion: Lent is a call to return to what we originally were — made in the image and likeness of God, united with God, with one another, and with creation.
Synodality is a call to become the original church, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, “taking part in the fellowship, to break bread, and to pray.” (2.42).
Lent is also a time for restoring our lost communion with God, and the consequent loss of fellowship among us. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Lent helps usher in a spirit of communion so integral to synodality.
Listening to all without any discrimination and discerning the will of God in every kind of human experience makes us part of the actual Church
Path of participation: Lent calls us to return to the spirit of participation we may have lost to a self-centered and hedonistic lifestyle.
It is a time, in the words of Prophet Joel, to “gather the people together; prepare them for a sacred meeting” — the old, children, single and married, all alike. Collaboration is the soul of synodality.
After all, those who participate in the synod are not just the hierarchy and the clergy but people of God from every parish and region, of every age and background, from every walk of life.
Listening to all without any discrimination and discerning the will of God in every kind of human experience makes us part of the actual Church.
And we can be grateful that it is because of Pope Francis that we can speak out, challenge, disagree and dissent, that we can experience the Church in all its diversity. An earlier Church crippled by hypocrisy, worldliness and fear has been set aside forever.
Life and mission are inseparable, be it in a person or in the Church. May Lent and Easter be a deep experience of synodality for us all
Life and mission: Lent questions the spirit, path and destination of our life journey. Once again, we look at the life and mission of Jesus, as the Gospels present him.
In proclaiming the “good news of the Kingdom,” Jesus knew he was antagonizing the corrupt Jewish establishment. He knew that his choice of messiahship was at variance with the popular understanding of what a messiah should be. Still, he does not hesitate.
His three predictions of his passion and death confound his closest disciples. Still, he does not falter.
By his death, Jesus becomes a life-giving Spirit, infusing the little community of disciples with peace and joy, and the courage to witness his presence among them.
And in the charisms which he generously bestows upon his church, he enables all kinds to work together and to fashion one body, one glorious communion, out of their many differences.
Life and mission are inseparable, be it in a person or in the Church. May Lent and Easter be a deep experience of synodality for us all. And may this synod be for us not merely one more ecclesial event but a celebration of a new charism in the Church — to walk together with the Risen Jesus.
* The views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
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