Pastor’s Corner for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

The primary task of the Synod is to refocus our gaze on God, to be a Church that looks mercifully at humanity. A Church that has God at its centre and, therefore, is not divided internally and is never harsh externally.  A Church that takes a risk in following Jesus. A Church “with a gentle yoke” (cf. Mt 11:30), which does not impose burdens and which repeats to everyone: “Come, you who are weary and oppressed, come, you who have lost your way or feel far away, come, you who have closed the doors to hope: the Church is here for you!”  The doors of the Church are open to everyone, everyone, everyone!

Brothers and sisters, holy People of God, in the face of the difficulties and challenges that lie ahead, the blessing and welcoming gaze of Jesus prevents us from falling into some dangerous temptations: of being a rigid Church – a customs post –, which arms itself against the world and looks backward; of being a lukewarm Church, which surrenders to the fashions of the world; of being a tired Church, turned in on itself.  In the Book of Revelation, the Lord says, “I stand at the door and knock so that it may be opened”; but often, brothers and sisters, he stands at the door knocking but from within the Church so that we may allow him to go out with the Church to proclaim his Gospel.

Let us walk together: humble, fervent and joyful.  Let us walk in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi, the saint of poverty and peace, the “fool of God” who bore in his body the stigmata of Jesus and, in order to clothe himself with him, stripped himself of everything.  How difficult it is for all of us to carry out this interior and exterior self-emptying.   The same is true for institutions.  Saint Bonaventure relates that while he was praying, the Crucified One said to him, “Go and repair my church” (Legenda maior, II, 1).  The Synod serves to remind us of this: our Mother the Church is always in need of purification, of being “repaired”, for we are a people made up of forgiven sinners – both elements: forgiven sinners –, always in need of returning to the source that is Jesus and putting ourselves back on the paths of the Spirit to reach everyone with his Gospel.  Francis of Assisi, in a time of great struggles and divisions, between temporal and religious powers, between the institutional Church and heretical currents, between Christians and other believers, did not criticize or lash out at anyone.  He took up only the weapons of the Gospel: humility and unity, prayer and charity.  Let us do the same: humility, unity, prayer and charity!

And if God’s holy people with their shepherds from all over the world have expectations, hopes and even some fears about the Synod we are beginning, let us continue to remember that it is not a political gathering, but a convocation in the Spirit; not a polarized parliament, but a place of grace and communion.  The Holy Spirit often shatters our expectations to create something new that surpasses our predictions and negativity.  Perhaps I can say that the more fruitful moments of the Synod are those connected to prayer, an atmosphere of prayer, through which the Lord works in us.  Let us open ourselves to him and call upon him, the protagonist, the Holy Spirit.  Let us allow him to be the protagonist of the Synod!  And let us walk with him, in trust and with joy.

Extract from Homily of Pope Francis, 4 October 2023, Feast of St Francis of Assisi.


Fr. Bruce Botha SJ