The challenge of synodality is the listening and the finding together of a common path found in the suffering hearts of people, young and old, who dare to hope. (Photo by P Walpole, APC)
Pedro Walpole SJ
As the church today, we seek to respond to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth as one, but there is also the cry of the human spirit. This cry interconnects with human poverty and the destruction of the environment through the individual and collective desire to live a more meaningful life.
This desire includes finding the change we want rather than being handed a prescription or a checklist of things to do in our busy lives. We have to want the change and boldly seek the way, fully engage and share in community, and catalyze action. There are no set of actions or DIY kit to move us from what we now know to what we must do. That takes hope and vulnerability, and to be surprised by conversion.
This is precisely the challenge of synodality – the listening and the finding together of a common path and is found in the suffering hearts of people, young and old, who dare to hope.
In synodality, we are called to listen more intently, acknowledge the empathy shared, and find the compassion of the moment to be worthy of the greater challenge. To journey together on the same path is to persevere with hope and a vision beyond the present horizon.
The church has a role in transformative change as it is a source of eternal hope – the greatest vision being life after death, and is lived through the sacraments, in communion, and with actions of charity.
Doing what we must, confident of God’s ways
As an Ignatian network in the church, Ecojesuit needs to reflect on its role as we awaken with others to the call for change. This conscionable call about what we must do is driven by gut feeling and the tacit acknowledgement and complete confidence and trust in God.
We are not meant to live a girded and cyclical life, for in the process of reflecting upon the needed change, we are guided. Each community plays a compassionate and hopeful role, particularly in religious life, in being constantly called to reconciliation with steadfast faithfulness and righteousness. The sacraments renew and strengthen us every day as we go out and act.
Sharing life with a sense of presence and in community is to become aware of the cry of the human spirit. The call of the Holy Spirit that is then heard is unselfishly understood and discerned in a process of synodality that brings us beyond ourselves.
In the consumerist world we live in, many are losing awareness of “the cry of the spirit” in not wanting to fall behind or getting blinded by the social trance of productivity. Our minds are active, but we do not always fully grasp this cry of a broader reality where millions live in poverty and we are consuming the rights, resources, and resilience of generations.
The intellectual discourses of our times are often caught in smaller silos in the South and need to gain greater traction in a broader reality, such as climate impact or agricultural economics, and critically disturb the Western world of non-commitment. Many of the universities and schools as centers of culture and learning do not reach the rural areas, putting blinkers on the scope of discussion and unable anymore to engage in many areas of local adaptation or critical economics. These discourses need to reach the soul of the people and the life of the land. We need to challenge our societies as to what we are willing to do and sacrifice.
Recapturing the vision, seeing all things new
The cry of the human spirit is within the poor and within each one of us. We must try to humbly acknowledge and honor this genuine cry of life in self and the other. We have beautiful moments of integrity that shine through what we do and what we see in others. This is where faith is most important in carrying us through the challenges as we seek to express the greater and simpler realities.
We need to configure within us an attitude of greater simplicity and courage and not come up with yet another list of things to do. Many are exhausted at this stage with COVID-19, its mutations and social permutations. Its challenges to our own responsibilities and ministries call for a more basic conversion of gratitude and compassion, not racing anew to catch up with “lost” time.
How do we recapture the vision, this shift from quantity to quality? How do we go out, break the boundaries of whatever we are dealing with, and see all things new?
Quality is a conversion and communion, an ungirded participation in a discernment and action beyond the immediate horizon.
Beyond the major disruptions, there is the broader influence of slow-moving changes and their compounding of the situation prevents us from seeing how the ground has changed and how outdated a generation becomes by sticking to stereotyped narratives. A generation can slide into thinking that they know the context, but which has actually changed. This is the experience in climate change for those not studying it, and also how poverty has grown without the middle class perceiving it at the margins beyond.
Climate change and the care that is needed by our communities, the escalating tensions in Eastern Europe, the exhausting demands for dialogue and diplomacy relating to peace, energy, food and water – these are all asking from us a vision, and not some practical solutions, because we are moving a generation.
The youth protests in Germany supported by Fr. Jörg Alt; the Justice and Ecology youth advocates in the United States and Canada who are working with pro-life, anti-racism, and clean energy movements; the indigenous community protests against mining and extractive industries in Latin America and the Caribbean; climate justice youth in South Africa; Pacific warriors fighting for the ocean and their survival in the face of rising sea levels; the emerging wave of change from the ground with Lok Manch in South Asia – these are not just stories that invite us to reimagine life. These are stories that challenge us to join civil society and stand by our advocacies by finding new collaborations.
Let us stop being dependent on recommendations before we change. There is no guidebook to help us move from knowledge to implementation, from silos to community, from theory to practice, from statistics to reaching the stories and soul of land and people. There is just the trust and the courage of the human spirit of belonging and of journeying together.
Breaking the silos, seeking others
There are always people who are actively committed and seeking to find ways forward, but feeling very alone and withdrawn in apostolic missions and many rural realities. While affirming the integrity of our mission work, Father Arturo Sosa SJ (Superior General of the Society of Jesus) is calling for a deeper, if not seismic, shift in a needed and collective response.
How do we take our engagements even further given the staggering urgency in the world where the hunger, poverty, and vulnerability are widespread? How do we stay in touch with humanity and creation while holding out for greater accountability in governance, and even in democracy where this has been lost?
Beyond the information and the general desire to do what is right, how do we stand up and identify with the truth of the situation and its criticalness and be changed or transformed by this as well?
Synodality and Spirit, reanimating hope
“We ask for the grace to be renewed by the Lord. We wish to discover a new apostolic enthusiasm inside ourselves, a new life, new ways to follow the Lord.” – Father Arturo Sosa SJ
We, as growing Ignatian communities sharing in the mission of Christ, need to better engage globally in tackling the issues through global collaboration. We have to allow others a voice and at the same time shake up the worlds that we are in through witness, advocacy, and dialogue.
Witnessing is not something that is owned and controlled. Rather, it enables us to see humbly where we are and the roles we see ourselves in a world that is not balanced. Amid the prevailing social structures and diverse contexts, we need to go out of our own institutions and engage in the different realities from which we need to learn.
Our counterpoints to uncertainties and global challenges are the possibilities and opportunities we embrace in synodality to influence and catalyze seismic shifts in society for its wellbeing and the common good. Hope is the platform from which our action emerges and takes off.
In synodality, our desires and hearts open up to allow us to share in ways forward. There is so much opportunity but we are caught by technocracies and confusion of agendas. But we know the ways we can act and we know the solutions to all of the problems and we have to work for collective ways forward.