The last decades gave us moments of great hopes and of deep disappointments. The collapse of the communist empire seemed to offer a chance for a peaceful world and the progress of democracy.  Instead, today we see an increase of ruthless dictatorships and the weakening of western democracies.

After one year of “Lockdown”, everybody was longing for a return to a normal way of life. Now we are faced with a fourth wave of the pandemic. With the increase of devastating disasters due to climate change we all expected that the governments gathered at the 26th World Climate Conference would have at last the courage to take radical and concrete decisions to limit its impact and all we got were again vague declarations of intent.

Looking at the worldwide situations of conflict and the polarisation within the church, the temptation to resign is great. On person who does not give up hope is Pope Francis. He remains convinced that God’s wisdom is wiser than human foolishness, and his love stronger than our selfishness. And so, he invites the church to launch a „synodal process”. Dioceses and parishes, catholic institutions and religious communities, the laity together with the clergy, all are called to exchange their painful and encouraging experiences, to listen openly to each other and to God’s Spirit in prayer to hear in their hearts “What the spirit is saying to the churches” today. (Rev. 2:7)

A preparatory document describes this synodal process and suggests 10 themes to be explored. We intend to reflect on these the questions in our traditional Lenten reflections next year. In October 2023 all the many ideas and propositions will be merged to form the basis of discussion for a world synod which then will submit proposals to the Pope.

The Pope is aware that such an open process entails also great risks. His way of thinking and living is inspired by the Ignatian idee of discernment. In his homily at the opening mass of the synod he said:

“The Synod is a process of spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, that unfolds in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God…That word summons us to discernment, and it brings light to that process. It guides the Synod, preventing it from becoming a Church convention, a study group or a political gathering, a parliament, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Spirit.”

Are we prepared to accept the preconditions for a successful discernment, such as:

  • Listening attentively, but also speaking out with courage and frankness. The most important and the most difficult is the art of listening which requires a great inner discipline.
  • To be without prejudice and have an open mind and heart without knowing in advance what the outcome will be.
  • To be open for the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, which requires longer periods of time, when we stop talking and try to see whether the ideas and proposals we discussed are “from heaven or from man?” (Lk 20:4), aware that our thoughts are not always God’s thoughts and His ways not always ours. (cf. Is 55:8)

To live the spirit of Advents means waiting for the coming of the Lord, not only at the end of time, but now, into our world and into our church as it enters the synodal process.

AEFJN Germany