The start of a new year is a time when many of us pause and reflect on where we have come from and where we hope to go. In the Church, we open the year with the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
In the first Gospel reading of the year (Luke 2:16-21), shepherds travel in haste to see the newborn child of Mary and Joseph. When they see him with their own eyes, lying in the manger, they share with his parents all that the angel of the Lord made known to them about the savior Jesus was to be. They then depart and share this good news with others.
Luke’s Gospel is especially rich in understanding how those on the margins, people excluded from the care and concern of society, were those to whom the good news of Jesus would first be revealed and demonstrated. The angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would redeem the world by including those who had been excluded. It was shepherds, those living on the outside of society, who bore the first public witness to him.
In his first public ministry appearance at home, Jesus was rejected when he announced himself sent to fulfill the words of Isaiah: to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives and freedom to the oppressed. And so he does, welcoming tax-collectors, sinners, women, the poor and the marginalized to speak. It is a deep and powerful look into the heart of God.
How does this speak to us, as a Church, as we begin this new year?
In this synod, the entire people of God are called to step forward, together, in a path that can renew the Church and the world — one of communion, participation and mission.
In communion, we strive for unity and fullness in relationship with God and others.
In participation, all the people of God are invited and involved in the work of the Church.
In mission, we go forth to witness, as living examples, to the good news of Jesus Christ. Our renewal can only happen through our journey together, our “synod” where we are truly open to hearing and discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit in one another.
Since the announcement of this synod process in May 2021, Pope Francis has consistently called for our attention beyond the boundaries of our own experiences in the Church. How can we be open to those who have been excluded: the vulnerable, marginalized, disaffected and hurting? How can we provide space within ourselves for the Holy Spirit to be heard through their voices? How can we include them and walk together in this journey, a renewed people of God? We are not asked to have all of the answers to these questions.
We are only asked to be willing to take the first step: listening. And, along with that, to share ourselves with others.
To get started, you are invited to visit the Synod 2021-2023 page on the diocese’s website: https://stcdio.org/synod-2021-2023/.
In the “Resources” section, you can learn more about the synod, see information about efforts already underway and upcoming events. In addition, there are self-guided listening online activities you can engage in right away. Throughout the synod, this page will be updated to include further opportunities as well as information about what is learned in our diocesan listening.
In this new year, may we truly open our hearts to listening to one another. May God bless us with courage and strength to support one another in every step of this synodal journey.
David Fremo is director of the office of Catholic Education Ministries and coordinator of the local synod consultation process in the Diocese of St. Cloud.