Mass opens path to synodal church

Below is Archbishop Andrew Bellisario’s homily from the synod mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe  on Oct. 17th:
Today is a very special day.  Together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we begin the synod preparation process in our Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
Pope Francis inaugurated a two-year preparation process for the 2023 Synod with the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”  Synodality sets out to achieve an ambitious goal: teaching and uniting the faithful, lay and religious, by coming together in dialogue to explore the needs and focus of the Church.
Our Holy Father began the synod preparation process last weekend at the Vatican with prayers invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the celebration of the Eucharist.  This weekend, we do the same in the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.  A synod is a process of pastoral planning with the voices of all Catholics to be heard.  The synod is for the good of the whole Church, both locally and universally.
There are three phases to the synod process: Diocesan, Continental, and Assembly of Bishops in Rome.  The diocesan phase begins today as we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This phase is a wonderful opportunity to come together in our new Archdiocese, uniting it with the Catholic Church throughout the world.  The process in the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau will involve organized and focused listening sessions in person and through virtual means in our parishes, schools, and social action groups.  They will include those at the margins or who feel excluded.
The diocesan phase in our Archdiocese will continue until March 1, 2022.  You will have the opportunity to gather at your parish and local communities to dialogue, respond to questions, listen to each other, provide individual and group feedback, reactions, and suggestions.  During this phase of the process, we encounter and experience the synodal journey together.
This synod preparation process provides us with the opportunity to encounter each other as the children of God we are, in the love of Jesus Christ through the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Coming together for prayer, respectful dialogue, discussion, listening, and discerning the will of God, brings us closer to God and one another.  We come to a deeper love, respect, and understanding of each other.  But we do so in the context of our calling as missionary disciples of Jesus, furthering the Church’s mission of evangelization.  Our readings for today help us focus upon our relationship to God and one another and prepare us well to participate in the diocesan phase we begin today.
In the book of Deuteronomy, “Moses said to the people: Heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.”  Moses tells us of the importance of actively listening to the voice of God and putting his commandments into action in our lives so we can have a continual conversion of heart and soul.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says: “Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.”  St. Paul reminds us a primary value for us as Christians is the unity of the Body of Christ.
In the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him . . . I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”  Jesus teaches us that genuinely loving him compels us to keep his word.  Loving Jesus and keeping his word are inseparable.  And by loving Jesus and keeping his word, we live in his peace, embraced in the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Jesus promises us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach us everything.
The synod preparation process that we begin today provides us with a pathway to seek the voice of God, listening to his will and giving us the strength to keep his commands.  Through our efforts of respectful discussion and listening to each other, we endeavor to remain united in the Body of Christ.  We choose to love Jesus and keep his word.  Through the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, we pray for wisdom, discernment, and guidance.
As we begin this synod preparation process, I encourage us to also pray through the intercession of our Archdiocesan patroness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  “St. Thérèse is known for her ‘little way.’ In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, she wrote that what really mattered in life was not our great deeds, but our great love. She believed that the God of mercy had a special love for ‘ordinary’ people, including herself. Through personal example and unshakable confidence in God’s love, St. Thérèse put into practice her belief that opportunities for loving occur most often in the ordinary events of one’s life.  Through these happenings, we are called to choose to love others with God’s help and grow into wholeness and holiness. The message of St. Thérèse, now known throughout the world, teaches us that no one has to earn God’s love. God loves us first, and the purpose of life is to respond to this love.”
This message is ever relevant, and even more so today, with all the strife, division, and bitterness that seems to be a growing part of our lives with one another.  According to the website of the shrine of St. Therese in Juneau: how disordered, chaotic, and off-balance our lives are when we are unreconciled to God and each other.  As St. Thérèse knew, love is the answer to all of our woes.  St. Thérèse reminds us: “You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”
The success of synodality ultimately rests with all of us choosing to love.  I invite you to participate in the dialogue and discussion sessions when they become available at your parish.
May God bless us, and may the Holy Spirit guide us in our endeavor to build up the Body of Christ.


'Mass opens path to synodal church'
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