Apr 12, 2016

Closing Synod 2016 Mass

Closing Synod Mass, Sunday, April 10th,  2016

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Many here at this evening’s Mass have spent three wonderful days together at our Diocesan Synod, a major moment in the life of the Diocese. We had a hundred proposals to work on, with voting on each proposal. After moments of prayer, dialogue and discussion, we had clickers to click our vote with three options – I strongly support the proposal, I support it, I don’t support it. We were told that as long as the voting session was open, we could change our vote and it would be the last vote that would be counted. Perhaps it’s God’s sense of humour, but this evening at Mass, we are presented in the Gospel with a dialogue of two thousand years ago – and, lo and behold, Jesus is providing Peter with three chances to respond to his proposal! And we know that in his case it was the last vote that counted!

The proposal Jesus put before Peter came in the form of a question: Do you love me? We know the story, when Jesus first called Peter, he had said he wanted to support Jesus and follow him. But he had dramatically said “no, I do not know the man” when Jesus was arrested. But then came the Resurrection and a new beginning and Peter gives a resounding vote: “Lord, you know everything, you know I love you!”. To which Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep… Follow me”.

Peter represents the Church; he represents all of us. In our hearts and with our lives, we too have been engaging in dialogue with Jesus. And in these days of our Synod, behind each of the topics, He has been asking us a question – Do you love me?

  • Do you love me in those who feel marginalised, those who are hurt, those who need compassion and welcome? We have said a strong “yes”, opening our heart to many.
  • Do you love me in parents and families needing support? We have said a strong yes in the very week Pope Francis has brought his beautiful letter on love in the family.
  • Do you love me in young people, ensuring they feel connected, involved and active in a multigenerational church? We have said our yes with enthusiasm for the young Church.
  • Do you love me in and through the liturgy knowing that “where two or three are present, there am I in the midst of them”. We have said a passionate yes to sing his praise more worthily.
  • Do you love me in everyone as they grow and mature in faith? We said yes, with a new energy recognising Jesus is in everyone growing to full stature in faith.
  • Do you love me in the challenges that are arising today in the changes around our parish and diocesan structures and leadership? We have said a courageous yes, wanting, above all, to serve him, serve one another and serve humanity.

To our resounding “yes-es” in our dialogue with Jesus, we now hear him in this evening’s Mass reply gently but firmly to us: “feed my lambs, look after my sheep, feed my sheep”. In other words, the journey continues. Jesus says: follow me now in serving all those in whom you declared your love for me.

The Risen Jesus present among us offers us three proposals to take away as we leave our Synod:

Witness. “We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him”. It’s what Peter and the first apostles did – they told their faith story, what they had witnessed and lived. Only life gives life. Let’s not be afraid to witness to the difference faith in the Risen Lord has made in our life. Not as abstract theory but as reality. We’ve lived a wonderful experience this weekend, we want to share it with others. Faith is a wonderful gift; we need to radiate it.

Worship. The second proposal is worship. There have been moments, I’m sure, in these days when in the secret of our heart, we have felt an interior joy that made us want to cry out something like what’s in the second reading: “praise, honour, glory and power” to God for this wonderful grace that he has granted us in this Year of Mercy. Our Synod has been a gift that has come from the heart of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the source of Mercy, who has laid down his life for us. We are called to respond by living our life as worship. And the best worship we can offer is to say with our lives: “here I are, Jesus, renewed just as you want me to be. I want to be a consoling response to your wounds, a worthy fruit of your love. Here I are.” In the prayerful worship of our lives we live out our baptismal priesthood.

The Word. Perhaps we will go from this Synod full of energy, enthusiasm and commitment. That is good. Let’s savour that. It’s a gift from God. But there will come a moment when we’ll wonder – was it real? Has it produced fruits? We might find ourselves like Peter and the apostles in today’s Gospel going out into the boat fishing but catching nothing! That’s where the Word of God comes in. It was on Jesus’ word that his friends cast out the nets again and they made a huge catch of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them (at that time it was believed that there was 153 types of fish in the ocean). It was the power of the Word that worked the miracle. Living the Word of God builds the Church. And notice, the net was untorn. In other words, despite the variety of the members of the Church, it’s vital to keep united with one another in our mission together.

So, with these three final proposals – witness, worship and the Word lived together in building the Church, we conclude our Synod in an intimate dialogue of thanksgiving with Jesus: “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know everything, you know we love you”.