Trusting the Community of Faith
by friar Martin Day, OFM Conv.
I did a test question at morning Mass lately, asking the friars “When did you first hear of “synodality?” No one recalled hearing about it growing up and one friar indicated that his first encounter with the term was less than a year ago. That raises another question that might be lurking in the back of our minds, “If I’m just now hearing of the term, how important can it be?”
The more we look into what synodality means, though, the more we can see its connection with things we have grown up with, scripture passages, for example, which have synodality written all over them. One such passage that comes to my mind is the story in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:15ff.), where Peter stood up amid the assembled community (about 120 people) and told them they must pick a replacement for Judas. Peter gives some direction regarding the qualifications of the person to be chosen, but it is the work of the entire community to discern who that will be. The process is to be an exercise in co-responsibility. The community arrives at the names of two qualified candidates and then leaves it up to the Lord to determine by lot which one will become a member of the Twelve.
The entire community took up the task because everyone in the community was qualified—they all participated in the communion the Holy Spirit establishes among the faithful. That is the Holy Spirit’s first gift, communion with God and with one another.
St. Paul spends a good deal of time in his letters listing the various gifts of the Holy Spirit present in the communities he ministered to. That might lead us to forget that the first and most important gift is the Holy Spirit himself. We might enjoy specific gifts like administration, or speaking in tongues, but we all take part in the gift of being able to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. A community of faith that is serious about following the Holy Spirit’s lead will leave room for that inspiration, regardless of where it occurs. That requires synodality.