Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (15 & 16/1/22)

posted 21 Jan 2022, 04:04 by Parish Office

You may have heard that Pope Francis has decided to expand the way synods work in the Church. For years, there has been the Synod of Bishops, which would meet every year or so, sometimes involving all the bishops of the Church, or at other times only a certain region of the world, to discuss certain issues with the Pope, such as, “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”, or “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World”. But now the idea is to expand, if you like, the way these synods collect their data. So individual parishes are being asked to have meetings which feed into this whole process.

The way it’s all supposed to work is different from what happens in the Church of England or the Orthodox Churches. It’s also to be different from what has been happening in the Catholic Church in Germany.

As you know, the Church has something of a pyramid structure. At the very top there is the Pope, then under him are all the bishops, they you have the priests, the deacons, the religious, and then the laity. So the way the Synod is supposed to work is that the insights of the laity feed their way up through their parish priests, through their bishop, up to the Pope. In order for that to happen, a parish has a meeting or two, writes up what was discussed, and that is passed to the deanery. The deanery then collects the results from the parishes, sums it up and passes it onto the diocese. The dioceses then summarise the submissions from the deaneries, and pass their summary onto the Bishops’ Conference. The Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales then sums up all it has received from the bishops in their dioceses and it’s passed onto the Vatican for the Pope. Have I lost you yet? I hope not.

Now let’s add more flesh onto the bones. That’s the basic structure. So what are these “meetings” all about? Well, firstly, they’re not just ordinary meetings. Some people love meetings, and other people can’t stand them. Somebody once altered Scripture to say that “God so loved the world He didn’t send a committee”. The meetings are supposed to be a form of prayer meeting, rather than everyone meeting around a table with a list of items to discuss and someone to take minutes.

One of the worries some people have had about the synodal process, or “Walking Together”, as it is also called, is what sort of things people might

come up with. In the pages and pages of documents that have been produced about it from the Vatican, one of the things that is emphasised is to have as wide a range of people participating as possible. Everyone must be included, including those who are often left out. In order to expand the range, the suggestions are to have meetings on-line as well as in person, and to think about how you involve the parish school, the housebound, and even non-Catholics and non-Christians. What’s all this about? Part of it goes back to today’s second reading:

“There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them.”

The idea is to bring the whole Church together, and even those outside the Church. No one person has all the gifts. As St Paul later on says, the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different people, and so the idea is not to miss out and exclude certain people from the word go. Then, because it is, in essence, a prayer meeting, we have readings from scripture, bidding prayers and so on, as well as discussing questions. To whet your appetite, the questions come under three headings. The first is “Communion: The Life of the Church. Formation.” The second is “Participation: Liturgy and Worship. Co-responsibility.” And the third is “Mission: Social Outreach. Evangelisation. Our Dream”. The idea also is that our discussions are not just then recorded and forgotten about, but that some of the insights can be used straight away in the parish. For example, one of the questions is: “How do families and young people effectively participate in the life of your parish? What do you do to support them?” So some of the questions are down-to-earth and practical, rather than vague and meaningless.

It is all quite new, and there are bound to be hiccups on the way. But the important thing is to discern the work of the Holy Spirit and to recognise Christ among us. Did the guests at the wedding feast at Cana recognise Christ among them, or were they too lost in enjoying the wine? Are we going to take St Paul’s words to heart, that the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts widely? We have started a process, but we don’t know yet where it will lead.