I am writing these words to you this week from Rome, the Eternal City.
Yesterday, on Oct. 10, I had the privilege to join the Holy Father Pope Francis as he opened the 16th Synod of Bishops with a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square. On Oct. 31, I will open the archdiocesan phase of the synod with a Mass I will celebrate at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The theme of this synod is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” Unlike previous gatherings of the world’s bishops, the Holy Father wants this synod to include directly the people in local dioceses across the world, especially with the lay faithful.
Here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, we will be holding consultation and listening sessions to gather perspectives that we will use in preparing a report to be delivered to Rome in April 2022. Following this year long process of listening, the pope will convene the synod of bishops in Rome in October 2023.
In a moment of reflection held before the synod’s opening Mass, Pope Francis told us, “In the Church, everything starts with baptism. 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.”
This is key to the synod, as I see it. It fits beautifully with the theme of our jubilee year marking the 250th anniversary of our Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, in which we are praying to rediscover the depths of our identity as missionary disciples.
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, he is asking each of us to think about our relationship with Jesus Christ, our communion with him in his Church, and how we participate in his mission.
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.
I am praying that in this jubilee year, as we begin this synod process, we will open our hearts to Jesus Christ in a new way, to draw closer and go deeper in our relationship with Jesus.
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.
So, let us all make a new commitment to enter into silence with Jesus, to meet the Lord and adore him in the pages of the Gospel and in the Eucharist.
October is also the month of the rosary. In my prayer recently, I was reflecting on how Mary’s Magnificat, her great song of joy, is made up from a string of different Old Testament passages.
And it struck me again: This is how Mary fed her soul — through her daily, prayerful reading of holy Scripture. What a beautiful witness and example for us.
Let’s also make this month a time to rediscover the rosary as a scriptural prayer, a way of pondering in our hearts, day after day, the mysteries of Our Lord’s life and his love for us.
Pray for me and I will pray for you.
And 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.