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 | By Bishop Earl Boyea

Communion, Participation and Mission – Synodality!

Synodality! This is one of Pope Francis’ favorite words. It is a Greek word which means “on the way with.” There is a lot packed into those words. And Pope Francis wants all of us to unpack those words. He has called for a synod in Rome in Oct. 2023 to reflect upon “synodality.” However, he wants all of the almost 2,900 dioceses in the world to help prepare for this synod. We here in the Diocese of Lansing will begin that work on Oct. 17 at the 11 a.m. Mass at the cathedral.

There are three key words which describe this synodality: communion, participation and mission. Obviously, in our diocese, we have been focusing on the third word, mission. It will do no good to be on the way with others unless we know where God is calling us. We need to adhere to that goal. In this diocese, we have already engaged in a long process of doing what Jesus has called us to do, to Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord. Currently, we feel a bit stymied about how concretely to do what Jesus asks of us. What are our next steps? Many of us are engaged in aspects of this mission, and for that, thank you. But in terms of our whole diocese being on mission, there is something missing. And, as we continue to Realign our Resources for Mission, it is mission which again needs our attention.

It is those other two words which may help us to focus on mission. First of all, we, as Christians, are to manifest communion, unity. Why? Because that is the nature of God. God is a communion of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are baptized in the name of that Trinity and thus should show to the world that same unity and communion. This is the only way that we can discern God’s will on how we are to go on mission. It is never “my” idea but rather God’s idea, as discerned by the community.

In our hyper-politicized environment today, we all too often get focused on ourselves as individuals and on what “I want.” While each of us is a unique individual created and loved by God, nonetheless, God has made us to be in communion, especially to seek the common good.

Second, the Holy Father wants us to expand greatly the participation of all in this community discernment. If we are all part of the body of Christ, then every part must be valued by everyone else not just for the purpose of letting each person express his views. No, it is for the purpose of recognizing that God uses all of our talents for the good of all and that every voice can contribute to the discerning of God’s will by the community of faith.

Now, what we will be celebrating and engaging in these next few months is not to be just a blip. Rather, this is how each of our parishes and our whole diocese should be discerning God’s will down the road into the years ahead so that we will then know and do that same will as one community of faith. This brings us back to the beginning. There will be no real progress in fulfilling Jesus’ command to proclaim the Good News for the salvation of souls unless we are all willing to engage in this community effort.