The listening to take place during the synod is a time of “pastoral conversion” for all the faithful, not just priests and bishops, Archbishop Jason Gordon said at the launch of the diocesan synod last Sunday, October 17. It is call to humility, to be a servant and to discern.
Archbishop Gordon and bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) joined bishops around the world in launching the diocesan phase of the world synod on Synodality. Pope Francis on October 7 opened the two-year synodal journey with Mass in Rome. The theme of the 16th Synod of Bishops 2023 is: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.
Delivering the homily on the gospel of Mark 10:35-45 at the Living Water Community Chapel, Port of Spain, Archbishop Gordon said for 2,000 years the Church has grappled with Jesus’ words: “anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all”.
He said the synod Pope Francis has set in motion is for the Church around the world to be a listening Church. “If he has his way with us as local churches, what he will experience is a Church that is evolving and shifting its direction,” Archbishop Gordon said. He made reference to the shift which occurred in the transition from Archbishop Count Finbar Ryan OP to Archbishop Anthony Pantin who opened a way for the Church to be in dialogue with Assembly ‘77 then Assembly ’88. Synods were held in 2003, 2005 and 2009, during the tenure of Archbishop Edward Gilbert CSsR.
Archbishop Gordon used the image in Exodus of the Israelites walking together, guided by a cloud by day and fire by night, as an analogy for the synod journey. They did not know where they were going but they were following God “step by step”. “That is how we are called to be with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to the Apostles… ‘I will give you another advocate, the Spirit of truth and the Spirit will guide you and remind you of what I have spoken and lead in every way that you will need’.”
The Church today is called to be a listening Church to take direction from God. Archbishop Gordon said, “What we are listening to, is each other and we are trying to hear the voice of God speaking through each other so that we discern in common what God is asking the Church today. This is a momentous shift in the Church”.
He said a new epoch has arrived, and those who did not believe should speak to their children and grandchildren about the faith. “You will hear what they see and understand by the faith is totally different from what you learned.” He continued, “If the faith is going to be transmitted to that next generation, brothers and sisters we better start listening and listening deeply and that is how the Church becomes a servant to all, a slave to all”. The hierarchy of the Church is in service to the people of God and listening to what God is saying to the Church through the marginalised and those whose voices have never been heard before. He singled out parents and grandparents to wait and listen to what their children and grandchildren have to say.
Archbishop Gordon rejoiced at the launch of the synod saying it was a momentous occasion and “the Gospel message is now being enfleshed in local churches and in the universal church”. The feedback locally will be sent to the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) and compiled for the region, it will then be forward to Rome. The views collected from the worldwide church will be prepared for the meeting of bishops in 2023.