Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB has given the following message for the Season of Advent: “… to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission”.
This quote is from the preparatory documents of the Synod process which was launched in October of this year and is scheduled to run until October 2023. The list articulates a wonderful way of being.
In the season of Advent, we hear similar words of exhortation, encouragement, and challenge – removing obstacles, filling voids, giving more direct attention and focus to making space and opening ways for our God.
In these days let us “dream about the Church we are called to be”, let us dream with Joseph; the dream being that special meeting place, a place of encounter with God, where, for Joseph, the expectations of society, the rumours, traditions and customs were examined in the light of faith and he was freed and endowed with the courage and confidence to act in accordance with God’s promptings and to take Mary as his wife and her child as his own.
For us, we don’t want to settle for being a Church that is simply marking time in a maintenance mode, dictated to by secular systems but one that is filled with delight and energised to “make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds …”
It would be wonderful to be able to look at our Church against this check list of characteristics and recognise them in the way we function and share life with one another. But if we are not quite ready to make this a check list let us during this Advent make it a “to do” list, setting out to make those characteristics our own.
“The objective of the Synodal Process” the document states is, “a journey of growing authentically towards the communion and mission that God calls the Church to live out in the third millennium”.
The Covid pandemic is still with us as we celebrate our Advent and Christmas Seasons this year and I underscore the necessity to sustain our vigilance; sanitising, wearing masks, observing distances, and accessing our vaccines. In a sense there are always “pandemics” to contend with.
When Joseph dreamt it was in a context of Jewish laws and Roman occupation each making its demands and imposing restrictions and fears. The world, the Guyana we live in comes with elements of the third millennium – climate change, the digital milieu, conspiracies, uncertain economies, migration to name a few.
In this context we hear the Advent cry to stand firm, hold heads high and to wait in active hope. Advent calls us to that place of encounter with our God, to sift through and name the various forces and influences that seek our attention. More importantly, it is the time to secure and embrace afresh what is of our God.
The Synod invitation is to do this together and for each other in a process of healing, building, stimulating trust, listening, forming sound relationships, enlightening minds, warming hearts, and strengthening hands to continue the work of building God’s Kingdom.