An elderly parishioner eloquently read Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (long version) this past Sunday with clarity and an authentic sense of understanding. The message was crystal clear: God has created each of us as integral members of the Body of Christ, his church.
A thought crossed my mind, “Do I really know the other members of Christ’s Mystical Body?” I had seen this lector before but didn’t even know his name nor have any understanding of his life, background or spiritual life. After Mass, I thanked him for his beautiful reading.
Later, that Sunday while “listening” to a Synod on Synodality virtual session, this gentleman expressed that he felt the sharing of personal faith experiences would allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish conversion in others. He, then, shared how after losing his mother at the age of nine, he developed a serious stuttering problem. Recounting the challenge, he told of a professor at Fordham who was teaching a class on public speaking. The professor invited him to take the class and young student told him that he had a speech impediment. The instructor persuaded him to enroll. At the first class, the teacher explained to the class that they would need to be patient with this student, as he had a speech impediment.
Now, years later, this former stutterer, now a seasoned adult, was speaking from his heart to thirteen people at our Synod “listening session” about how he surmounting his stuttering challenge. He attributed the transformation to God, who works through everyone – each member of the Body of Christ. The man called this transformation, a miracle.
This Synod on Synodality, our collective journey of faith is comprised of all of the individual members working as integral parts of this Body of Christ. I have been asked if the information from this Synod will make a difference and actually reach the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and be an instrument of change. I can assure them that by the ever-present grace of God, inspired change and new life in our church will occur. The eternal Father, creator of all things, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will unite the church from the bottom up, just as God did through the first Apostles.
We are the church, the beloved bride of Christ. With 1.3 billion Catholics and nearly 8 billion people on this earth, we have the opportunity to share what God has done for each of us. Imagine if each person had one new conversation with another, where our input was nothing more than listening to their story with our heart – the heart that God gave us in His image. We could be united by the One who came to make us whole.
My heart, mind, soul and strength were set aflame by listening to a virtual stranger, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Through listening and learning I am now in greater communion with another member of the Body of Christ and motivated to share this communion.
A kind and gentle listener will empower a courageous speaker. And the Holy Spirit will bestow the gifts and fruits that bind them together and draw others to the simple flame that spreads like an ocean of fire.
Deacon Stephen Hodson is Diocesan Delegate to the global Synod on Synodality office and also a member of the pastoral ministry team of St. Luke Parish in Westport. He is leading the listening process in the Diocese in response to the call of Pope Francis to “journey together” to unify the Church as the Body of Christ.