Synod retreat meditations: ‘Authority’ and ‘The Spirit of Truth’

Synod retreat meditation

In the days leading up to the Synod, which began last Wednesday, several synod retreat meditations were presented to those preparing to participate in  the global meeting of bishops in Rome.

One of the meditations focussed on the meaning of ‘Authority’ and another on ‘The Spirit of Truth’.


There can be no fruitful conversation between us unless we recognize that each of us speaks with authority. We all are baptized into Christ: priest, prophet, and king.

The International Theological Commission on the sensus fidei quotes St John: ‘You have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge’, ‘the anointing that you received from [Christ] abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you’, ‘his anointing teaches you about all things’ (1Jn 2:20, 27).

Many lay people have been astonished during the preparation of this Synod to find that they are listened to for the first time.

They had doubted their own authority and asked, ‘Can I really offer something?’ (B.2.53). But it is not just the laity who lack authority.

The whole Church is afflicted by a crisis of authority.

An Asian archbishop complained that he had no authority. He said: ‘The priests are all independent barons, who take no notice of me.’

Many priests too say they lost all authority.

The sexual abuse crisis has discredited us. Read more

The Spirit of Truth

The disciples see the glory of the Lord and the witness of Moses and Elijah. Now they dare to come down the mountain and walk to Jerusalem.

In today’s gospel (Luke 9. 51 – 56) we see them on the way. They encounter the Samaritans who oppose them because they are going to Jerusalem.

The immediate reaction of the disciples is the call down fire from heaven and destroy them. Well, they have just seen Elijah and this is what he did to the prophets of Ba’al!

But the Lord rebukes them. They still have not understood the journey on which the Lord is leading them.

During the next three weeks, we may be tempted to call down fire from heaven on those with whom we disagree! Our society is filled with burning rage.

The Lord summons us to banish such destructive urges from our meeting.

This pervasive rage springs from fear, but we need not be afraid.

The Lord has promised the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth. On the night before he died, Jesus said, ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.’ (John 16. 12 – 13). Read more

  • Father Timothy Radcliffe, OP, is an English Catholic priest and Dominican friar who served as master of the Order of Preachers from 1992 to 2001. These are two of the reflections he shared with those about to attend the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which began last Wednesday.
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