In the preparation of any official teaching or other liturgical documents to be presented to the People of God, Church officials must implore the Holy Spirit to form, guide and direct the thinking, writing, and speaking process.
The priest, in his daily duties in his parish, must ask the Spirit to give him the perception, the strength and the courage to fulfil his mandate as shepherd to the myriad people whom he serves.
Thus it must be as the Church continues to look into itself with the launch of Synod 2021–2023. It is the Spirit of God that must dominate every interaction among the people and between the people and Church leaders.
Human biases, irritation and impatience born of fatigue, a lack of empathy or liking for individuals and their lifestyles or their points of view, a desire to dominate or to control are all factors that easily derail a process that is not only desirable but is essential if the Church is to continue to grow in holiness.
Fear of ridicule, an unwillingness to appear ‘un-Catholic’, moving from a learned obedience to figures of authority, especially in the Church, to the stage where customary practices and even beliefs are questioned openly and sincerely are also obstacles to progress as we search for truth and for commitment to the will of God.
Last week’s second reading (from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, 12:31–13:13) emphasised the importance of love over all the great and wonderful gifts that are bestowed upon us by God.
Paul says, “ …without love, then I am nothing at all.” He says that love “ … is always patient and kind … never jealous … boastful or conceited … rude or selfish … does not take offence … and is not resentful … it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.”
It is not easy to live up to this definition of love. In fact, it can be very difficult, yet it is this love that the Church, in its entirety, must employ as we work towards the goal of being the Body of Christ in this world.
As the local Church seeks to engage the faithful in every corner of the country, as it opens itself to close scrutiny, it will uncover areas of great strength and deep faith. These will manifest themselves in every generation, even among those who may be sharpest in their observations and criticisms of the Church.
We must, however, recognise those aspects of our Catholic life that may be confusing, upsetting and a cause for dismay for many who profess the faith. We may well discover that among some of the older generation, there may be a longing for a return to the ‘rules’ that guided them as youngsters, rules that they feel have been thrown by the wayside over the years.
There are young people, too, who are demanding clarity and who perceive that the Church has shown weakness or indecision by taking a softer line on essential beliefs and practices and is moving away from the truth.
Some may resent the ‘inclusivity’ that must be part of the synodical process while, conversely, others may feel that there is not enough breadth of vision.
It is not easy to reconcile the differences, the conflicting views, the stubbornness of the personalities who see themselves as being the bearers of the ‘truth’ as opposed to those whose vision of truth does not fit into a neat, convenient and acceptable package.
It is inevitable that just as there will be rejoicing as we recognise our many strengths as Church, we also must deal humbly with the terrible pain that is a part of our reality as local and universal Church.
May the Holy Spirit of God guide us as we seek to re-create ourselves in His true image as His Body on Earth.