You may know that there is going to be a major meeting of Bishops in Rome in 2023, called a Synod. The subject is Synodality and we are all asked to help prepare for it. In his sermon at the Mass for the opening of the synod process in October, Bishop Hugh told us that the Greek word synod means three things: traveling together, sometimes meeting, and road, or way. He reminded us that Jesus said He is the way, so synod means the same as pilgrimage.
Usually, Synods are made up of Bishops who bring their knowledge and experience about the whole Christian community to the meeting. This synod will be different: the community is being asked to speak for itself. This is difficult to organise, we will need meetings in parish, deanery, and diocese to bring together the views of the huge and varied population of the whole church, but it is very exciting.
Bishop Hugh reminds us that when the twelve-year old Jesus travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover, he was in a group which had joined up with other groups. Such an arrangement is called, in Greek, a synod. For Jesus, and a lot of other young people in the party, this was a special year. He would be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah. For the people of Israel this was, and still is, (rather like our confirmation) a first step into the adult life of the community. He would be allowed for the first time to read to the congregation from the Holy Scrolls. (There must have been many excited children in this synod all looking forward to their day of fame. I don’t think Jesus was the only one who managed to lose his parents in the crowd.) It is hardly surprising that Jesus impressed the elders with his wisdom and knowledge but look what happened next! He was ticked off by his parents and went home to be obedient to them for 18 years. Is there a lesson to be learned here?
We too are invited to say our piece before the synod. I know that many wise and beautiful contributions will be made which will truly impress those who, unlike us, have had the benefit of seminary training. But many of us will have concerns about things happening in the church that don’t seem right, we would like to see change for the better.
My favourite television programme is called ‘The Repair shop’. The people who bring items in are highly skilled themselves, and the objects often show evidence of their attempts to fix them themselves, but it takes a full time and gifted professional to understand the works and repair the breaks so that the object is once more functional and beautiful, although showing its age and usage.
What do people bring? The procession of soft toys, broken tools, non-functioning musical instruments, damaged paintings and broken machinery looks quite honestly as if it belongs in landfill, but the owners are always asked three questions:
“Why does this matter to you?”
“How did it get into this state?”
“What will you do with it when it is mended?
It is the answers to these questions that make all the effort worthwhile. A beautiful story from the past of generosity love or courage; sadness (and a little guilt) at the unfortunate accident or neglect that did the damage; hope and joy as the next generation receives the restored gift make the programme unmissable.
I think we should reflect on these questions as we bring our hopes and fears to the preparatory synod meetings. We will then have to entrust them to the synod itself. This can be hard. We wonder if anything will really change, certainly nothing will happen in the short term. But remember Jesus being collected in Jerusalem. If He could afford to wait, so can we.