13 June 2024
13 Jun 2024

The World is my Family

Synodality ist the beginning of a new journey in anthropo-ecclesial and socio-religious context of the third millennium.

by  Emmanuel Nanduri, SCJ

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Synodality: The beginning of a new journey in anthropo-ecclesial and socio-religious context of the third millennium. It reflects the Dehonian dictum, sint unum, to live in communion with the Creator and creation. Synodality and Sint Unum: A constructive spiritual communion of the Eucharist that reconciles and transforms the world. It is a pilgrimage towards the Kingdom, travelling together in the spirit of sharing and dialogue, fraternity, and community, listening to, and learning from each other, making this world Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a family, where the entire creation lives in the spirit of Fratelli Tutti.

Note: The article comes from the congregation’s continental theological commissions in preparation for the XXV General Chapter.

Since the world’s inception, there have been various stages of evolution of life, which Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in one of his major works, The Human Phenomenon, outlines as, Pre-Life, the appearance of life, the emergence of self-consciousness, and the future. He envisioned, the term «future» stands for an irreversible ascent, through the collective forces of man, material, and spiritual, to reach what he called the Omega Point, the cosmic summit, Christ, who is the soul of the universe. In his Christian confessional theology, he combines these cosmic concepts that evolve and revolve in and through the person of Christ, the means, the centre, the Omega of the universe. Thus, in this process of evolution, there is a cessation of something and the transformation into something else. In his book, Christianity and Evolution, he says: «Cosmogenesis transforms into Christogenesis», which underlines the aspect of transformation from the universe to the human being, from cosmos to Christ.

In view of transforming the world towards its Omega Point, today’s world is inundated with ever-growing challenges: with the manipulation and deformation of concepts such as democracy, freedom, and justice; with the loss of the meaning of community and fraternity; with selfishness and indifference toward the common good; with the prevalence of secularism and individualism, liberalism and religious fanaticism, science and modern technology, media and artificial intelligence; with the disparity of rights and it’s aberrations such as unemployment, poverty, racism, the subjugation of women, forced migration, human trafficking, and even modern day slavery; all of which darken the life of our present world (Fratelli Tutti 10-24). This inundation leaves no space for communal and fraternal living in the world and societies.

The root cause of these challenges that endanger society is the primacy of the self. Religious life, in particular, is jeopardized amidst these challenges, finding itself environed with paradoxical factors that affect its very nature to live in communion with God and the other, the purpose of any religious vocation. While concepts such as primacy and collegiality, centrality and synodality, unicity and universality, are in the limelight of the debate on ecclesiastical soil, various other factors engulf the essence of religious life: a lack of sensitivity towards other members of the community, a lack of a sense of belonging to the Congregation, an absence of proper communication at the bureaucratic and administrative levels, lack of collaboration between persons and entities in fulfilling common projects, more self-centred and less other(God)-centredness, the constant growth of personal interests, a superficial togetherness and a certain tendency of communalism, availability for mission within the entity and lack of the spirit of internationality — all of these challenges prevail over religious life today.

In the light of these challenges, the Church summons us to journey together on the synodal «Way», an Emmaus with Jesus (Human) and Exodus towards the Omega Point, the Christ (Divine). In this journey, it is important to notice that «He is the Way» (Jn. 14:6), who invites us to «walk with Him and walk like Him». Thus, He plays the dual role as «the Way and the Walker», the God-Man, who journeyed the Earth in human form.

In this journey, Jesus functions as the «Light» (Mt. 5:14-16) to lead us from ignorance to enlightenment, from sinfulness to sanctity, from death to life. In its inception, the journey might seem interesting, at times, it seems so tiring and disheartening. There might arise a discussion or dialogue, confrontation or criticism on who is important and right (Mk. 9:33-35). Nevertheless, it’s a wake-up call to pause for a while, to slow down the walk, to sit down, and to look into oneself, the proper consciousness, the divine abode that enlightens every human frailty and fragility to follow Christ, the torch-bearer. Hence, it is an exodus towards the inner self (Mk. 1:35), from there towards others, in the company of Jesus, the Light.

Walking with the risen Christ, the New Testament presents the first community of believers as the «Way» (Acts 9:1-2; 19:8-9, 23; LG 12, 52), in search of the Truth. In brief, «The Way» encompasses both physical paths and spiritual journeys, reflecting a manner of thinking, living and decision-making. It serves as a significant name for the early Christian Community that had everything in common, where the members lived as equals, brothers and sisters in Christ. There was no Jew or Greek, rich or poor, white or black, circumcised or uncircumcised in this «Way». What actually did matter if s/he were a member of the «Way» or not. This journey led the believers towards the Truth, the fullness of God’s self-manifestation in human form as the «other».

Inspired by the Scripture and the Tradition of the early Church, the present General Administration of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus began its journey with this motto: «His Way is our way» (Cst.12) in 2018. In fact, it underlines the spirit of the Founder, Venerable Léon Jean Dehon, who often used the term, Sint Unum, in his daily interactions with his confreres that they might journey together as equals in communion with God and in union with one another (Cst. 17). In the spirit of our Founder, for a Dehonian, Sint Unum becomes the primacy of the commandment of fraternal love, a pilgrimage of a perennial conversion of oneself to embrace the other (Cst. 93) as an equal (Cst. 8) of synodality, to bear one another’s burdens as brothers (Cst. 63), and to make our communities a home for Gospel living (Jn. 17:21). In this manner, we strive to listen to the Spirit, the gift of the resurrected Christ, through our openness to one another, in sharing, dialogue, and hospitality (Cst. 63), and we participate in the mission of the Church (Cst. 60). In light of these ecclesiastical, spiritual, and apostolic dimensions, the Congregation SCJ invites each of its members to reflect on its XXV General Chapter’s theme: Called to be one in a transforming world “that they may believe” (Jn. 17:21).

This journey was initiated by Jesus on the day He instituted the Eucharist, the ecclesial nascent as the sacrament of love and communion (DEH1997-04-EN, 2), and of salvation (LG 9). On that eve, Jesus prayed: ut unum sint (Jn. 17:21), after the example of the communion of love of the most Holy Trinity (Trinitatis et Unitatis). It was promulgated and persuaded by His Apostles and their successors in the Church and took a new form in the Conciliar teachings of Vatican II. Its documents emphasize the term «new way» when speaking about the Church because of numerous changes it had brought about in the Christian expression of faith and living. In this regard, there are two significant references to understand this «New Way»: Communion and Mission of the Church. In the spirit of ecclesiastical Communion with God and others, the assembly of the «new» People of God (LG 9-17), the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, is, in effect, a Eucharistic Organism, a model for every Synod (or Chapter). Thus, the Church is not a conglomeration of self-contained monads, but the body of people (Rm. 12:5) organically interdependent (LG 7). It underlines not only the spiritual communion of the baptized Catholics, and ecumenical communion of the baptized Christians, in addition, it also emphasizes the orientation of the faithful of all religions and those who are of goodwill, towards the People of God (LG 16-17). Speaking about the spirit of communion in Orthodox ecclesiology, John Zizioulas remarks, «there can be no such thing as primacy without a council, nor, conversely, can there be a council without a primate». In one way, this is best imaged in the Eucharistic celebration: just as there is a principal celebrant of the Eucharist, while all others concelebrate and the faithful participate, so it is in the case of a Synod, Council, or a Chapter. At this juncture of the Conciliar teachings, there is a combination of Communion and Mission of the Church.

Lumen Gentium and other Conciliar documents emphasize that the mission of the pilgrim Church (Acts. 2:1-9; 15:14) is towards the Basileia (the Kingdom of God), one which primarily embraces all the baptized, but towards which even people of other faiths are oriented (LG 16). The Church receives its mission “to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ… and it strains toward the completed Kingdom in glory” (LG 5), Adveniat Regnum Tuum, which hosts people of every tribe, language, culture, and nation (Mt. 22:1-14). In view of the Basileia Celeste, the ecumenical council of Vatican II summons all the faithful to journey towards Ad Gentes. It is both an invitation as well as a mission for/of every believer to surpass the boundaries of caste, colour, creed, and culture, to detect the commonality with the other in the spirit of reciprocity. Thus, the Council declares: «the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in other religions» (NA 2), on the other hand, it recognizes the presence of the elements of truth and goodness in others (LG 17). Hence, in view of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the Church initiates dialogue with the living religions of our time. It recommends the faithful to discover the presence of Christ and His Gospel values in others (AG 3,7,11, GS 22, 25). It enables and enriches other religious cultures and traditions in the spirit of interculturation and at the same time, it learns from other religious cultures and traditions the presence of the elements of Truth and goodness. In this journey of dialogue and communion, the Church strongly prohibits forced conversion of faith but fosters the knowledge of Christ. It reproves any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, condition of life, or religion (NA 5). It builds bridges between individuals, faiths, cultures, traditions, religions, and nationalities so as to live in the spirit of solidarity and synodality as equals. The Church recommends its faithful to recognize the person of Christ in others, who, too, are created in His image and treat everyone with dignity as equals.

In line with Vatican II, by convoking the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis underlines the kairós of Synodality, i.e. the path which God expects of the Church of the Third Millennium. In the wake of Vatican II, the Holy Father insists that synodality describes the shape of the Church that emerges from the Gospel (Jn. 17:21), which is called to become incarnate today in history (AAS 107). In this context, «it is fair to say that synodality is at the heart of the work of renewal (transformation or reparation) the Council was encouraging» (ITC 6). In the theological, canonical, and pastoral literature, the terms synodus, ecclesia, and eucaristia are interconnected, to signify «a journey together of the whole People of God in the life and mission of the Church» (ITC 3-7). Thus, in conformity with Lumen Gentium and based on the teachings of sensus fidei fidelium, His Holiness remarks that all the baptized members of the Church, as agents of evangelisation, walk together in communion with the Church. In other words, the whole People of God participate in the life and mission of the Church. These agents of evangelization, in line with God’s covenant with humanity in Christ, make this pilgrimage inclusive, one that consists not only of the entire People of God, but also of those who are oriented towards the People of God (LG 16): non-Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, non-baptized/believers, and those who are ignorant of Christ and the Church (NA 2-5; ITC 14).

The theology of Synodality surpasses the human sphere by introducing us and taking us back into the cosmic realm. At the conclusion of the Holy Eucharistic celebration, in 2017, Pope Francis quoted Teilhard’s, La Messe sur le Monde, «Radiant World, blazing Power, you who mold the manifold so as to breathe life into it, I pray you, lay on us those your hands – powerful, considerate, omnipresent». His Holiness accentuates Teilhard’s thought of Cosmic Eucharist in his encyclical, Laudato Sì: «It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation… In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life… Indeed, the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love: Yes, cosmic!… The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration: in the bread of the Eucharist, creation is projected towards divinization, towards the holy wedding feast, towards unification with the Creator himself» (LS 236). In this way, the Eucharistic spirit pulls in, not only the human beings but the entire creation, to make this world a home of love and communion, fraternity and equality, respect and dignity, for each other.

In the light of the Papal invitation to walk together with Jesus as equals, brothers & sisters in Christ, and fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God, and the baptized members of the Church, Dehonians journey together in the spirit of sint unum. It is a journey of communion with God and union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by listening to the Spirit and in dialogue with one another. In another way, the Eucharist is the core of Dehonian spirituality expressed in the words of «oblation and reparation», lived through daily Eucharistic Adoration (Cst. 80-84). Hence, a Dehonian is encouraged to walk along with the ecclesiastical community of the faithful, and to live in communion (with God, neighbour and the nature), participating fully in the mission of the Church.

Thus, in the manner of globalisation, the Church seeks to transform the world into a home of fraternal love and communion, of sharing and dialogue, of equality and universality (FT 92-93, 95, 114), of solidarity with and charity for each human individual; thus transforming the world into a place where the cosmic love of the Heart of Jesus Christ reigns in each individual and society, in each culture and tradition, in each nation and in the entire universe (FT 64-65, 77, 81, 85, 88). To find Christ in the face of every excluded person in the society and to make Christ the core of every individual and society, is what Dehon hoped: «To make Christ, the Heart of the world» (Eph. 1:3-10), a heart open to the universe (FT 129-132). Nevertheless, this is the «new Way», the journey towards transformation, to reconcile with God the lost sheep, the people of other faiths, the infideles, and the entire creation.

Therefore, the synodal journey, in a way, is a new beginning of a new (third) millennium, the crux and flux of a new inception in the history of the Church, a movement and exploration of walking as equals, by listening to each other, discerning together what is best for us to live as good Christians and better human beings. In this journey, there is no space for supremacy or absoluteness of one’s identity or position, no room for centralisation of power and dictation of administration, and there is no time for self-sufficiency and solipsism. On the other hand, there is communion and collaboration between members on common projects. There is a healthy dialogue and discussion on issues pertaining to the community and mission. There is fraternal correction and confrontation when things veer from the «Way». Above all, there is love for God, the other and the creation, the unique detonate that can unify as well as transform the world, that which divulges our identity as Christians (Jn 13:35). The bidimensional gift of love is what binds us together closer to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to each other. Thus, let us allow this new «Way» to define us (Dehonians), to repair and transform the universe as Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means, «the world is one family», in which, the human beings are Fratelli Tutti.

Abbreviations: LG: Lumen Gentium; AG: Ad Gentes; GS: Gaudium et Spes; NA: Nostra Aetate; LS: Laudato Sì; FT: Fratelli Tutti; Cst: Constitutions (Rule of Life) SCJ; AAS: Acta Apostolica Sedis; ITC: International Theological Commission on Synodality and Mission of the Church; DEH(EN): Dehoniana English.



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