The behaviors that could interfere with our efforts at synodality are likely some of the very things we have been taught to do to win an argument or persuade others to our ways of thinking. Things like imposing our own ideas; applying pressure to be heard or declared “right”; distorting or discrediting the views of those who do not think as we do; taking up hard-line positions; adopting a moralistic stance; not giving the process sufficient time; neglecting to fully understand the other’s point of view; and more.
These behaviors can cause us to become trapped: trapped in conflict and/or trapped in our own desires.
The danger of becoming trapped in conflict is that we lose perspective. Our horizons shrink and we close off paths the Holy Spirit may be showing us. Sometimes walking together means that we must continue to endure the disagreements, leaving them to be transcended on a higher level at a later time.
The process of synodality takes time, maturity, perseverance and decision. Without these virtues, we can remain trapped within our desires, rather than allowing ourselves to be touched by the grace on offer. Focusing on our own intentions, visions and even ideologies can prevent us from recognizing a new path the Holy Spirit may be offering us.
Sometimes being trapped in conflict or trapped within our own desires can make us rigid in our thinking. This can lead us to being judgmental of others. The Bible warns us not to judge each other: “’I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world’” (Jn 12:47); “’You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone’” (Jn 8:15); “’Stop judging and you will not be judged’” (Lk 6:37, Mt 7:1); “It is the Lord who judges me” (1Cor 4:4); “There is one lawgiver and judge Who is able to save or to destroy. Who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jm 4:12).
Instead, Scripture invites us to be merciful, to forgive: “’Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’” (Lk 6:36); “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’” (Lk 23:34); “’And whenever you stand praying, for-give…’” (Mk 11:25); “’…forgive, and you will be forgiven’” (Lk 6:37); “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32).
This can be diﬃcult, especially when we are facing something that we believe conﬂicts with what we know to be an abso-lute truth of our faith. But, here, God gives us a path as well: love. With love, we can do all things. What the pope is offer-ing us with his recommendation for encountering, listening and discerning are tools for showing love to others, even those on what we perceive is the wrong path or the wrong way of thinking. By encountering and listening with love, with warm and open hearts, we can discern how the Holy Spirit wants us to clarify our own thinking … and determine when the other person has felt so loved, heard and understood that they can hear our own perspective in a way that the Holy Spirit can work in their lives.
As always, love is the answer. Let’s close by pondering a few messages from God about love.
- “Let all that you do be done in love” (1Cor 16:14)
- “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mt 22:40, Mark 12:29)
- “’But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you’” (Lk 6:27)
- “…God is love” (1Jn 4:8)
- “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14)
- “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12)