THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [51 or 50] provides us with a splendid Lenten focus and goal. The closing stanza of our extract begins with: Restore in me the joy of salvation;...
I don’t know if you are also feeling a little overwhelmed by the many things that are happening every day, by the speed with which they are happening, and even more by the complicated responses or answers that they demand.
This was one of the reasons why the Bishops began a process of analysis and reflection, which led to setting priorities among all the things demanding to be done. That in turn led them to take up the challenge of reviewing and renewing the Conference’s vision and mission, restructuring its departments, offices and desks.
Underlying all this process was the concern: How can the Bishops Conference be more at the service of the Diocese, rather than setting the agenda by telling the Diocese what to do!
In order to do this in an orderly way the Conference looked at all it needed to do to help the Diocese meet the internal and external challenges facing it. This was set out in the form of Priorities – ad extra i.e. concerning the Diocese’s outreach to society, ad intra i.e. concerning the things that the Diocese needs in order to be the evangelizer, the sanctifier and the organizer.
Hand of God
The first sign that God’s hand has been active in inspiring and guiding the process is the inclusion of people from every level of the Church community – clergy, religious, lay men and women in the process.
As many as possible have been given the opportunity to make their contribution drawing from their personal experience, faith and wisdom. A second sign of the presence of the hand of God is the fact that what the Bishops’ Conference was developing here in Southern African territories, the Church through IMBISA was doing in our Region of Southern Africa; and indeed the universal Church was doing at worldwide level.
More specifically the Church at all three levels was gradually identifying the area of Marriage and the Family as the one where the basic problems lay and so the area where the basic answers should be sought, developed and applied.
I am pleased to say that because our Diocesan Adult Formation Team and the Synod Implementation Team were already proactively involved in leading our Diocesan analysis and reflection, as the Archdiocese of Durban we have been able to make a significant contribution to the Synod of Bishops as it prepares for the Extraordinary Session of the Synod of Bishops in October this year and again to the Ordinary Session in October 2015.
A third sign of the hand of God being active is evident in the personality and leadership style being displayed by Pope Francis. Not only did he take the decision to hold this two stage Synod, but he has also been actively engaged in the meetings of the Council that is preparing these two key moments in the life of the Church.
Since coming to office he has either met with the Council for the Synod for a briefing where he spent most of the time listening and commenting, or he has sat in on the meeting for a full day at a time.
It is evident from what has transpired at these encounters that for Pope Francis every and any question is up for discussion. That is because he believes and is fully convinced that the Church has the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit with it, via the Scriptures, Tradition and the Teaching developed from those two sources by the Magesterium of the Church.
For him and therefore for the Church, the answers to our pressing problems are already there in the making, it remains for us to study, discuss and resolve them via formulations that the Holy Spirit is guiding us to work out.
Repentance, Prayer and Fasting are instruments that we must learn to understand, appreciate and use! “If I am going to change the Church and the world, then I must begin with myself.”
+ Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM