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The voice of the Spirit

Living in a material world where we are guided by our senses, where sensational news makes headlines and where the spiritual realm is non-existent, one wonders why the Church, in its first session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next month, gives emphasis to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Synod on Synodality will be held in Rome between October 4 and 29. It is a very important event for us Catholics and, yet, not much has been publicised except in certain religious circles. Is it, perhaps, because we are not much in tune with the spiritual realm?

Freedom of speech and opinion is the order of the day and we are very much aware how debates and arguments are carried out very often without any sign of consensus. We all give weight and importance to our opinion, so one finds it awkward to hear that one’s ideas do not always matter.

On his way back from Mongolia, lately, Pope Francis, when asked about the synod, retorted: “This is not a TV programme where they talk about everything. It’s a religious moment.” The pontiff insisted that “without this spirit of prayer, there’s no synodality; there’s politics”.

The starting point of this whole process of synodality is the fact that we are all baptised persons believing in the one true Christ. This bond that goes beyond our individuality and nationality makes us disposed to walk together and be attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of Vatican News, when reporting under the title ‘A lesson for the synod from the small flock in Mongolia’,  states: “The upcoming synod is an opportunity to grow in experience and awareness of what it means to live ecclesial communion, not according to individual or ‘party pre-packaged pseudo agendas’ but by rediscovering communion in prayer and in mutual listening, letting everyone be guided by the Spirit and, thus, putting into practice a pivotal dimension of being Church, which has been present in the Church since its origin”.

How many of us Catholics, when dealing with problems, try to solve them with a set mind rather than asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us? How many prelates in posts of responsibility are demanding changes in the Church’s teachings without being disposed to change their views, if necessary?

Pope Francis warns that no discernment can take place “for ideologues, fundamentalists and anyone else who is held back by a rigid mindset”. To be able to accept changes that are inspired by the Holy Spirit one needs to divest oneself of one’s ego. Synodality helps all partici­pants to have this sense of ‘togetherness’ of ‘communion’.

Because all are of one faith and one baptism and all are disciples of the same Christ, then it becomes easy to be of one mind and one heart.

How many of us Catholics, when dealing with problems, try to solve them with a set mind rather than asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us?- Ray Azzopardi

Unfortunately, in our lives, though we profess to be Catholics, we don’t have recourse to religion in our daily chores and so the presence of the Holy Spirit seems to be inexistent in our choices. Not so for the Church. If there is one thing for sure that stands out in the ‘Synod on Synodality’ it is the prominence of the work of the Holy Spirit.

In Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the first session, it is stated categorically: “The protagonist of the synod is the Holy Spirit.”

To emphasise the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit, the working document, in its very preamble, quotes from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which states: “Now there are variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are variety of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each of them is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor: 4-7).

The Synod on Synodality is a time of revival and grace for all Catholics. It is a time for us believers to realise that there is strength in living as a community of believers. With the insistence on the value of listening – listening to our internal voice, listening to the voice of the other and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit we become divested of our individuality and abandon ourselves to where the Spirit leads us.

No wonder that Pope Francis gives more importance to the process of synodality rather than to the results to be achieved. If the process is carried out under the discernment of the Holy Spirit, then one is bound to get the correct results for the good of the whole Church.

Let us all follow the appeal for prayer of the general secretary of the Synod, Cardinal Mario Grech when he states that the synod is, first and foremost, an event of prayer and listening that involves not only the members of the synod assembly but every baptised person.

He goes on to say: “All of us are called at this time to unite in the communion of prayer and in the insistent invocation of the Holy Spirit to guide us in discerning what the Lord is asking of his Church today.”

Ray Azzopardi is a former headmaster.