Love driven Church reform is beyond the documents

Love driven synodal reform

The synodal process within the Catholic Church demands a profound call to love that resonates at the very heart of Synodal discussions and decisions.

This period of reflection and dialogue, aimed at rejuvenating and reforming the Church, must fundamentally be rooted in love.

Central to this journey is the challenge to embody the greatest commandment—love.

Yet, as we delve into this transformative journey, we must ask ourselves: Are we truly embracing the radical nature of God’s love, or are we confining it to fit our agendas?

The synodal discussions are meant to be transformative, grounded in the radical love that Jesus exemplified.

Reject bullying: Embrace active love

Synodality and Church reform is not about bullying.

Bullying wants to control, harm, or intimidate others; living away from the power of love has the capacity to turn people into bullies.

So, as we participate in this transformative Synodal process, let us remind ourselves frequently that the command to love is central to all our conversations, agreements, disagreements, and decision-making.
Without love, decisions made “for the food of all” are little more than decisions made for some.

So love is not passive; it is active, challenging, and inclusive, rejecting any form of bullying, manipulation or coercion.

Love – a way and an end

As Pope Francis reminded us on April 24, “Goodness is not only an end, but also a way.”

Or as John 13:34-35 puts it: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

The Church, through the ages, has faced myriad challenges and reforms.

Today, as we stand at another crossroads, at least in the first world, the call for reform is clear in the corridors of ecclesiastical power and among the faithful in the pews and the faithful who were once in the pews.

Essence of true reform

True reform, as highlighted in the foundational teachings of our faith, is not merely about structural adjustments or doctrinal clarifications.

True reform involves a deep, personal, and communal return to the first and greatest commandment: to love God and to love our neighbour, even when we do not necessarily like the person, agree with them, think their theology is not correct, or agree with what they are saying.

How often is it that decisions, supposedly made for the “good of all,” end up benefiting only a few, as prudence and respect give way to expediency and efficiency?

Applying love

How often do power struggles within the Church overshadow this love?

The synodal process challenges us to debate, decide, and live out the love we profess fundamentally. I suggest that if we as a Church cannot first live love, our testimony to the world will become hollow.

Love is not soppy or wet, naïve or impractical.

Love is challenging.

Love calls us to a way of living, transcending the mundane calculations of gain and loss.

As we engage in this synodal process, let us remember that love is not passive but active and engaging.

It demands that we look beyond our personal desires and the immediate needs of the Church to embrace a more inclusive and comprehensive vision of reform.

Love compels us to listen, particularly the marginalised, the forgotten, and those we might disagree with vehemently.

Success beyond the documents

Ultimately, the measure of our synodal journey’s success may not be found in entirely the documents we produce or the changes we implement. Rather, it will be measured by how deeply we have allowed ourselves to fall in love with God and with all whom God loves.

This Synodal transformation ought to be visible, about bringing people out of their homes to be a listening and loving Church.

Synodality should not effectively ‘force’ people to stay home because they are afraid to share and bare themselves just a little.

All the Church reform in the world is pretty much worthless if we cannot love and respect each other.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others; it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1- Corinthians 13:4-7

  • Peter Roe SM has recently finished a term as a presbyter at St Francis Parish, Ohairu, Wellington. He now continues his ministry with Wellintown and in a range of workplace chaplaincies.
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