“Not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight believes the same openness with which Jesus addressed His Father the night before His crucifixion should mark every phase of the 2021-23 international Synod of Bishops.
“We are members of the family of God. We are about doing His will,” Bishop McKnight reminded the faithful during Adoration and Evening Prayer the evening of Sunday, Oct. 17.
“And we must be open to His Holy Spirit so that we can read the signs of the times and be responsive to the world around us, in our mission in proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Our Lord,” he said.
Pope Francis called for an international Synod of Bishops to be held in Vatican City in 2023.
This gathering will be the culmination of a two-year, worldwide process of praying and listening in order to discern how best to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ at this time in history.
The focus will be on promoting communion, participation and mission among all members of the Church.
Dioceses throughout the world have begun the process of asking specific questions of people who are active in the Church, people who are tangentially connected, and people who feel alienated or marginalized.
Each diocese will submit a report that will help set the agenda for further discernment throughout this synod process.
Bishop McKnight began the diocesan phase for the Synod in this diocese with a Mass in the Cathedral of St. Joseph the evening of Oct. 16.
He spoke of a vision of a Church made up of people more focused on serving God and one another.
How best to do bring that into being can be a vexing question without input from the Holy Spirit.
“Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has intensified his efforts to call the Church to greater communion by inviting more people to engage in the evangelizing mission of the Church, and thus fulfill the Church’s mission better,” Bishop McKnight pointed out in his homily.
He noted that the Jefferson City diocese has already been engaged in deep and prayerful discernment through the process of developing pastoral plans for parishes and the diocese as a whole.
Her referred to the diocesan pastoral plan as “our road map to strengthening the spirituality of stewardship — or participation — of individuals in the life of their parish; to strengthen co-responsibility for all and a mutual respect for the different roles the clergy and laity have — communion; so that our parishes may be better recognized as center of charity and mercy — the Church’s mission.”
He noted that the work and discernment that have already taken place will be helpful in creating the diocese’s report for the Synod.
“We will also be using an online survey and in-person listening sessions in each of the five deaneries to give as many people as possible the opportunity to listen to each other and to the Holy Spirit,” he said.
He emphasized that this is not a process designed to change Church doctrine.
“We will not be encouraged to assert or advance our own pet issues or projects,” he stated. “We are all called, instead, to listen together, with openness, to what the Holy Spirit is asking of us in how we are to be the Church in our present context.”
He pointed to two questions Pope Francis wants people to consider in this phase of the Synod:
“By reflecting together on the journey that has been made, the Church will be able to learn through her experience which processes can help her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open herself to mission,” said Bishop McKnight.
He urged everyone to remain open to any surprises the Holy Spirit may present along the way.
“Thus, a dynamism can be activated that allows us to begin to reap some of the fruits of a synodal conversion, which will progressively mature,” he said.
Later during the Mass, everyone prayed together the ancient “Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus” prayer that has been prayed by participants in the Church’s ecumenical councils through the centuries.
The following afternoon during the praying of Evening Prayer in the exposed presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral, Bishop McKnight emphasized the importance of being prayerfully open throughout the Synod process.
He urged the priests and deacons present to encourage the faithful to start every meeting in their parishes not just with prayer but also with prayerful silence.
“We can speak from the same place that St. Paul speaks from in his Second Letter to the Corinthians (1:3-7), of the importance of having trust and an openness to the Holy Spirit, in doing things differently than the way we have grown accustomed to or perhaps want ourselves,” the bishop said.
He encouraged the Church’s servant leaders to look for every opportunity to foster a more prayerful, more open, more discerning attitude among the faithful, rather than an attitude of asserting one’s own will.
“We are to follow the will of the Holy Spirit!” he said.