A view of the road to Emmaus, a figure of synodality
There were two of them at the start of the journey. A couple, perhaps? … Cleophas was one of them. His wife, Mary, had been at the foot of the Cross, accompanying her Master to what she thought was the end: the end of her Lord’s life and the end of her own hopes...
There are two of them and suddenly a mysterious pilgrim joins them. Together, they make their way and talk, opening their hearts to each other. Little by little, a glow appears in them, a warmth in their hearts... And, finally, the moment they recognise the Master in the figure of the pilgrim, they are transformed: from people - like so many others - passionate about the words of the Master, they become proclaimers of the Good News, true missionary disciples: the very first experience of synodality in the nascent Church...
The word “synodality” is often used in the homilies and texts of Pope Francis.
Based on this text of the pilgrims of Emmaus, we will try to reflect on this reality.
Synodality... but what does this word mean? We know its Greek roots “syn” together and “odos” path: together on the path... but what does it mean? Let’s try to find out...
In fact, to speak of synodality is not to speak of a work method. Nor is it to talk about the synods which, following the Second Vatican Council, have marked the history of our Church.
To speak of synodality is to speak of a spiritual process, which, according to the time, is more or less intense, but which belongs to the very being of the Church. This is why we can speak of it from the scene of the pilgrims to Emmaus.
Let us take this account: Lc 24:13-35. Let us try to visualise the scene... Here they are, both leaving, returning home... Their steps are heavy, their hearts too... They are afraid, sad and distressed... They know what happened in Jerusalem, but they have not understood anything... They had followed the Master, they had heard his words which had made them very enthusiastic... They rejoiced when the Master spoke to them of the Father, the Father who infinitely loves all his sons and daughters and never abandons them... They put their hopes in their Master for a world in which the Kingdom of God could finally be seen in peace, brotherhood, justice... And yet, the “system” rose against the Master, whose word it did not want to hear... And the Master had been taken, judged, condemned, put on a cross... Was it all a dream? They no longer knew what to do... Where to put their hopes... Completely lost, they decided to return home to resume their former life...
The synodal process entails steps. It requires that a group either wishes to come to a common decision, or to take a path together. It is important that these people trust one another so that everyone can speak freely. This is why Pope Francis invites the participants to a synod to speak with “parrhesia”, i.e. freely and with courage. There must also be respect for one another, so that everyone’s thoughts are received equally, convinced that we can all learn from one another.
Everyone must speak and simply share their thoughts, their intuitions, their vision.
We listen to each other in depth. We reflect on what we have heard. We give ourselves time to review our own thoughts, intuitions or points of view in light of what has been shared. We try to be flexible and humble, so that we can acknowledge what we have received from others that is sometimes more appropriate and right, and then we can change our mind, let ourselves be transformed by the other. We feel ready to change and to join a consensus.
Letting oneself flow into a spiritual movement is a matter of inner work. Synodality is rooted in faith; believing that God accompanies us along the way and helps us understand reality.
We must believe that the Word of God, spoken and written many centuries ago, still speaks to us today, because it is a Living Word that sheds light on current situations, the reality in which we live. It helps us see the path on which God wants us to set out.
This Word obviously comes to us from the Scriptures, but it also comes to us through the words and lives of our brothers and sisters who are inhabited by the Holy Spirit and by reality.
For this to happen, we need a climate of openness, of sincere quest for God’s will and acceptance of what will come of it.
In fact, community discernment is very similar, it obeys these same conditions.
The community is simply smaller than a synodal assembly. We live this same experience when we make our community project or when we have to discern before a new apostolic request.
Pope Francis wishes with all his heart that our Church becomes ever more synodal. The theme of the next Synod of Bishops will actually be synodality.
The process of synodality is moving forward... In our time, a Church “on the move” that takes on new paths, seeking God’s will in prayer and sharing what the Spirit says to each individual, is the continuation of the pilgrimage of the disciples of Emmaus.
Let us live this, and just like the Apostles and the Elders, we will be able to say, in agreement with the entire Church, to the “brothers of the Gentiles”: “the Holy Spirit and ourselves have decided ..... “(cf. Acts 22-29).
SISTER REGINA MARIA CAVALCANTI
Community of Itapuranga, Brazil
South Atlantic Province