We have an image of the earliest gathering which provides a model of the synodal church we are presently being called to explore.
The divine-human dialogue creates community. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. So here are the eleven apostles, all listed, ‘together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.’ They join in continuous prayer. We have an image of the earliest gathering, which provides a model of the synodal church we are presently being called to. A fellowship of equals in Christ, empowered by the Spirit, united in prayer and shortly after, on the basis of their lived experience of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, to elect Matthias as a replacement for Judas. It would be anachronistic to read back into the early church our present notions of ‘synodality’ since these emerge from the long story of a magisterial and hierarchical Church formed in response to the needs of each age. But the present call to synodality is a conscious return to the Spirit-led, missionary ‘synodal’ church if we mean a church in which we all ‘walk together’, sharing responsibility for the worship, life and mission of the Church.
Becoming conscious partners in faith, Peter points out, brings blessings but blessings gained through adversity. In the first centuries Christians faced state-inspired persecution, insult and suffering. It is reported that the most persecuted people today are Christian – for a variety of reasons.
‘They have kept your word’. So, John, has Jesus raise his eyes to heaven and talk with the greatest intimacy with His Father. It is as if He affirms all the work of His life as He comes to finish that work. He describes as ‘eternal life’ entry into the knowledge of the ‘only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ which He has given to those entrusted to Him. In a great conclusion He addresses the Father: ‘They have kept your word.’ Then in taking His leave He concludes: ‘All I have is yours and all you have is mine, and in them I am glorified.’ Does this mean that the Divine takes delight in the love, expressed in the great dialogue, being returned? We have the power, the God-given gift of being conscious that we can delight God! Something which the whole of created matter does and from which we have emerged to be able to choose to do so.