August 26, 2006
When I convoked our Synod, we initiated a fresh start from Christ – for all of us here, in the diocese. We strive to respond to our baptismal call to holiness and to the mission entrusted to us by the Lord to bring the good news to all. In the Catechism, the mission of the Catholic Church “is to proclaim and establish among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and beginning of that Kingdom”. (cf. CCC#767ff)
In September we will celebrate the conclusion of our Synod with a series of Masses in each of our deaneries. These Masses are not meant to celebrate the end of something but, like school graduations, they celebrate the “commencement” of something. In Novo Milenio Ineunte, John Paul II urged us to plan for the future. But at the same time he insisted this did not mean just developing new plans or programs. The “program” has always been the same, namely Jesus Christ, our way to conversion, communion and solidarity. Our Synod deliberations – and the plans that have emerged from them – give expression to the “program of the Gospel” …which “must continue to take root, as it always has done, in the life of the Church everywhere.”
Thanks to your collaboration, the Synod has identified the specific features of a pastoral plan. Again in the words of the late Holy Father, it sets out in detail “goals and methods, formation and enrichment of people involved, the search for the necessary resources – which will enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mold communities and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.”
Starting afresh from Christ, we will move forward strong in faith as witnesses to hope. We seek to implement the various priorities laid out in our Synod documents. We must assure that what we are about is not just new programs. What we are about is a genuine renewal of our life in Christ as members of his Body, the Church. Therefore, as we move forward as a diocese, we must subject all what we do to a simple examination of conscience. Does this activity bring us closer to Christ in his Church? Does this activity motivate us to love him wholeheartedly – with renewed fervor and zeal? Does this activity serve Christ in the person of the poor, the vulnerable, the needy? Does this activity increase our awareness of the gifts we have received from Christ? Does it challenge us to develop and share them and thus return them to the Lord with increase? Such an simple examination of conscience, useful in our spiritual lives as baptized Catholics, will no doubt prove fruitful as a “collective examination” of ourselves as a diocesan church. Then we will seek to be more coherently “the seed and the beginning” of Christ’s Kingdom here in Central Florida.
This is a far cry from the religion of the Scribes and the Pharisees that Jesus rightly condemns in today’s gospel reading. Our Synod has not been about tying up heavy burdens – nor has it been about advancing any agenda other than allowing the glory of God to be made manifest so that, as in Ezekiel’s vision in today’s first reading, we recognize God dwelling among us.
I thank all of you who have been involved in the Synod in one way or another – the facilitators, the synod associates, Chancery staff, commission members, and the many, many of our faithful who have supported the Synod with their prayers. Evoking the words of Jesus in today’s gospel, “The greatest among you must be your servants”, Martin Luther King Jr. once said: every man can be great, because every man can serve.
You – priests, deacons, religious, members of Christ’s faithful – you all are the “greatest”, because you all have served so well. Thank you.