Echoes of Instrumentum Laboris
Instrumentum Laboris is the working document, which is a discerned collection of the echoes of the experiences of the synod around the world at various levels, and it is the preparatory document for the gathering of Synod of Bishops in October, 2023. Interestingly, this is the first meeting of the Synod of Bishops where lay participants are participating as full time members (not auditors) with voting rights. For those, who are not convinced of reading the document in its entirety, hopefully I can give you some salient features of his document which may convince you to read the document in its entirety.
- The opening Bible quote is very significant, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:5–6) When they are many ideas in this short verse, one thing that is highly stressed in the synod is the question of working together in harmony. It is not becoming same; all chords in the music are not same, but they align beautifully to create a harmony. And different harmonies are possible too. Not forgetting that, all is based on JC.
- Under the accompaniment of God’s spirit, people of God is on the move (a journey) as ONE People of God. (1,3) A synod on this direction doesn’t have production of documents as its primary purpose, but to “open horizons of hope for the fulfilment of Church’s mission”. (3) Definitely this is not a human task, but human role in discerning God’s work on this direction is very important. In the synodal style, Spirit (protagonist of the Synod) speaks through all of us, and listening to all those echoes are important.
- There were many sincere and respectful encounters between persons in the synodal assemblies; “meeting each other is also meeting the Lord in our midst.” (6) An encounter with another person in love also teaches us something new about God. (40) This document is a document telling stories of encounters, which raises many questions to be discussed and addressed. Tensions need to be addressed in synodal discernment, making them sources of energy and not of destructive polarisations. An interesting challenge is also to discern at which level each question has to be addressed. (6)
- An oft repeated theme is the need of the church to become aware of its identity and vocation as a synodal church. This requires special formation for all, especially for all those in leadership positions. On the other side, the questions raised by the document are not abstract ones, but ones which has the imprint of a face or many faces. None are anonymous, but raised by people guided by the Spirit. (11) And the importance of local churches in living out the synodality can never be underestimated.
- Three words that characterize the document and the propositions for the discussion in the coming synod are communion, mission and participation. All the three words have quite a significance in the Christian life. Communion is easily connected to communion in trinity or communion of saints, or even to holy communion and to communion of ordinary members. The life of the church is a mission from God. We all participate in the life of the church and participate in the priestly, kingly and prophetic mission of Jesus. (Now what is in italics is my thoughts). In the context of synodal document, we shouldn't forget the interconnectedness (or interwovenness) of the three ideas. Mission and communion are deeply linked, and it has to be practically carried out in participation.
- Communion is a gift of the triune God, but this is also a human task (46). Liturgical prayers are one of the privileged means of this unity. And this communion is a task always in progress. That doesn't mean we should never take efforts to overcome the obstacles towards communion.
- There is a co-responsibility in the mission. How we understand this in the context of different charisms, responsibilities is an ongoing question that the synod needs to discern. The role of woman, priests, bishops are all questions where more discernment is required and this is the echo from the people of God. This is explicitly linked to the question of participation and authority in the church. A question that could echo many of these sentiments is, how can we imbue our structures and institutions with the dynamism of the missionary synodal Church?
- A synodal church promotes the passage from I to We (25), but We don't become a monolithic block or the personal dimension of I is never lost (35).
- A synodal church calls for a deeper understanding of the relationship between love and truth. (27) This is a big challenge in the context of diversity of opinions, views, understandings and life situations. “To authentically include everyone, it is necessary to enter into the mystery of Christ allowing oneself to be formed and transformed by the way he lived relationship between love and truth.” (27)
- Listening (to all, an active listening) and shared discernment (not the question of majority winning or hierarchy winning) is very much at the heart of this entire process.
NB. The numbers in the brackets are the numbers in document, which will help you as a reference