archbishop etienne here in seattle is a good man. i have had two opportunities to share a meal with him and i truly get the sense that he is a man of firm faith and service. it comes across clearly to me that the pastoral care of people is of great importance to him.
in his annual letter to the people of the seattle archdiocese, he has posed some foundational questions to us in order to respond well to God in our concrete actions. he encouraged us to pray over these questions, be attentive to their meaning and listen as best we can. here they are:
“…ask each of us to truly listen to the Holy Spirit and discern: How am I personally called to live my faith? How are all of us, as Church, called to manifest the Body of Christ today?
How are we experiencing the movement of the Holy Spirit? What is God’s will for us and for the Church? What concrete expression of Christ are we called to embody in the Church today? How are we called to share the love and joy of Christ with others?
by highlighting these questions, the archbishop is giving us a means to enter into the mode of synodality that pope francis has called the universal church to engage. it is profound in its simplicity: we are to look more deeply at who we– as church– really are and what we are doing.
with the focus on the Holy Spirit as the inspiration and guide, synodality gets us back to understand ourselves as community in the broadest sense. the images of the church as “people of God” and “Body of Christ” move us past seeing the church primarily as popes, bishops and priests and invites each of us to participate with the gifts God has given us. these gifts of the Spirit are to unify and build up the community in service and the common good. we are being called to contribute and be a part of this Spirit movement.
it seems so basic, no? don’t we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” in the Lord’s prayer? but “how” do we do this will? on our own , we often do not know how to discern well.
we have strayed from these ideals and our leadership is challenging us to deepen our faith through these questions and discernment.
synodality is the process and way of being that can help us toward greater unity. what is unique about this communal emphasis is the place of people who are at the margins of society– ones who this world ignores. from the document on synodality, we read:
“…an important obligation and a criterion of all social action of the People of God to hear the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, and to draw attention urgently, in determining society’s choices and plans, to the place and the privileged role of the poor, the universal destination of goods, the primacy of solidarity and care for our common home.” ( https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_20180302_sinodalita_en.html#_edn46 )
to help us in this discernment, archbishop etienne offered us this prayer of st. paul who reminds us that we are “partners for the gospel”:
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.
to me, these questions and process will help us– individually and as a community of faith– to love more authentically. is not this the heart of who we are and what we are to do?
where will the Spirit lead us? will we be part of it all?