Just last Wednesday I, along with a number of parishioners, attended the eConference held at the Kildara Centre. The Conference was entitled Synodality in Practice-Listening to the Spirit and Leading Change. This Conference was given for the purpose of explaining what the 2020 Plenary Council is all about and the process involved.
It is an historic event in the life of the Australian Church as it has not had a Council of this magnitude since 1937. It seeks to engage everyone both in and outside the church as to what direction the Australian Catholic Church should take in the future. It strives to take into account the time and place we find ourselves and the issues we face in our lives.
The first part is the Preparation Phase which commences with listening to the stories of those people who wish to share. It will be operating on the premise that everyone has something to offer as well as something to learn. This is what Synodality in its true sense means.
It occurred to me that we have already done something of this last Sunday at all of the masses when many parishioners responded to the invitation to reflect on their own faith stories and share with the person next to them. As far as I am concerned if this meant parishioners doing this for the first time or talking with someone they had yet to meet then it is already a success. The openness to share our stories of how God has provided for us in our lives and to listen to the stories of others of how God has provided for them is indeed a gift.
As a continuation we have the opportunity this week to hear stories from others in our parish community of how God specifically provided for them through their engagement with the Inter-Generational programme that took place in May-June this year.
Like last Sunday we hear again in the Gospel Jesus referring to himself as the Bread of Life. This represents an opportunity to hear how our lives can be enhanced by listening to and including God’s story as part of our own life stories. The image of the Bread of Life reminds us of a relational God who cares deeply about us.
In the First Reading we hear how Elijah fell asleep sitting under a bush. He gave expression to how tired and dispirited he was feeling as a result of what was taking place in his life. God received Elijah’s story and provided for him exactly what he needed at that time. This is why Jesus invites us in the Gospel to draw ourselves closer to him. He more than anyone else can provide for what we really need. In extending this invitation Jesus hopes that we don’t try to respond on our own but rather strive to do this together. In sharing and receiving stories of faith we can encourage each other to respond to Jesus’ invitation in trust.
The process of the 2020 Plenary Council will take over two years. Elijah responded to God by allowing him to lead the way in his life journey. Ultimately the effectiveness and success of the Plenary Council will be determined by our willingness to respond to God in trust like Elijah did.