I had the blessing of attending the Mass in Rome with Pope Francis for the opening of the 16th Synod of Bishops on the theme: "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission."
As we have begun the diocesan phase of the process, I continue to reflect on the Holy Father's words from a moment of reflection that was held before the synod's opening Mass. "In the Church, everything starts with baptism," he said. "Baptism, the source of our life, gives rise to the equal dignity of the children of God, albeit in the diversity of ministries and charisms. Consequently, all the baptized are called to take part in the Church's life and mission."
To me, this is what the synod is all about.
We cannot stress this enough: Our lives find their meaning and purpose in Jesus Christ. Nothing else explains who we are, why we are alive and what we should be living for.
In baptism, we claim our new identity in Christ, as men and women who have met Jesus Christ, experienced his love, and accepted the salvation he won for us by his death and resurrection.
What the pope is calling "the synodal path" is a journey of prayer and reflection. In this coming year, our Holy Father is asking each of us to a new encounter with Jesus Christ, and a new appreciation of our responsibility for the Church's mission of bringing all souls to know Jesus Christ and his salvation.
We need to remember that the Church's mission is more than what happens in our parish programs and liturgies, in our ministries and administrative work.
We are a part of something far greater. We are a part of God's plan for history and creation. For God, this is all a love story. He created the world and sent his only Son into this world, to unite all things in Christ, and through Christ to join all peoples in all nations, in the communion of his divine love.
The Church's mission is to complete the love story of salvation history. As Jesus gave his life to save us from sin and death, he calls each of us to give our lives to him, to follow him, and to share in the mission of his Church. We are saved to save others.
In his opening homily for the synod Pope Francis urges us to enter into a new encounter with Jesus, and he emphasizes "adoration -- this prayer that we neglect so much."
This is vital to our mission. We cannot give what we do not have. We need to be converted before we can bring others to conversion. That means we need to pray before we can proclaim.
All this returns us to the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the source and the summit of our Catholic faith.
The synod preparations align beautifully with the U.S. bishops' pastoral intentions to bring about a eucharistic revival in this country.
Like the synod, the eucharistic revival is a missionary project. It aims to draw our people deeper into the heart of the mystery of faith, to awaken what St. John Paul II called "eucharistic amazement."
As we walk together on the synodal path, my prayer is that each of us will come to a deeper appreciation of the precious treasure that we have in the Eucharist, in which our Lord makes himself a gift of love, offering his Body and Blood to become our food and our companion as we make our way on this earthly journey.
May Our Blessed Mother help us to make this jubilee, and this synodal process, a true moment of conversion, for each of us, and for our Church.