By Deacon Steve Byers
We know from the Gospels that—to the chagrin of his critics—Jesus and his disciples ate from time to time with sinners and tax collectors.
Imagine what it would have been like to have a seat at that table.
Imagine listening to Jesus, focusing on his words, following the ensuing conversation among everyone present, and even responding when asked, “So, what do you think?”
On those occasions, Jesus certainly did not do all the talking. No doubt he listened a great deal as well, because he wanted to hear what the others thought, how they felt, and what they had to say.
It was an exchange of ideas much like the one Pope Francis expects when the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops convenes in October 2023.
In anticipation of this event, the Pope has asked the people of every diocese in the world, including the Church of Pittsburgh, through its parishes and various ecclesial connections, to pray and prepare by coming together to share ideas and listen to one another.
The purpose of a synod, he has said, is “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands.”
He has invited all of us to participate.
He has invited us to bring our ideas about the Church of today and the Church of tomorrow and to discuss them—not with the intent of pushing a particular cause, not with the hope of effecting change that would be to our liking, not with the expectation of voting on a course of action.
Pope Francis has invited us to this discussion because, like Jesus, he cares what we think, and because he wants all of us to have an opportunity to be heard.
Think about it. When someone asks for your opinion, you don’t necessarily expect them to agree with you or to follow your advice. Chances are, however, you appreciate being asked because it’s a sign of respect for your perspective. It means your voice is important to them.
I believe that’s what is happening here.
The Church is made up of countless diverse perspectives, countless voices—mainstream voices and marginal voices. The Pope is especially interested in the latter because all too often in the past they have gone unheard, but everyone’s voice is important.
It’s in the collective voice of the people, he has said, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit might best be heard.
Therefore, his message here is clear.
Everyone is welcome to participate in this discussion.
Everyone has something to say, something to offer, about our experience as Church and about how we as the Body of Christ can best live out the universal call to discipleship in our world.
Everyone has a seat at the table.