Editorial: Synod emphasizes love of neighbor

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Brad Peper, director of the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Faith Formation, explains the synod process at the start of a listening session at the Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville in 2022. Tennessee Register file photo by Andy Telli

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

It has been a month since the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began at the Vatican, which brought together a synthesis of thoughts from Catholics in dioceses throughout the world responding to Pope Francis’ call for a more synodal Church.

When the call first came for a Synod on Synodality in October 2021, the guiding Vademecum explained, “Synodality enables the entire People of God to walk forward together, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to participate in the mission of the Church in the communion that Christ establishes between us. Ultimately, this path of walking together is the most effective way of manifesting and putting into practice the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God.”

For the last two years, the effort to open an all-inclusive discussion among Catholics around the world seemed to garner widespread success with many opening the discussion to people of all ages, backgrounds, social class, and even those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, there was much to be discussed when the Synod of Bishops on Synodality was finally underway.

While not many specific details have been released over the last month, there is one thing that remains clear. If we want to become a more synodal Church, we must heed the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew, proclaimed this past weekend (Oct. 28-29) at Mass:

“[Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’”

Love has been at the core of reports from the Vatican as the Synod of Bishops has unfolded and was even a key piece of the letter released by the Synod to “the People of God” on Wednesday, Oct. 25. The letter thanked the people who have participated and expressed the point of the synod to “foster mutual listening and a desire for communion in the Spirit among us.”

“Day by day, we felt the pressing call to pastoral and missionary conversion. For the Church’s vocation is to proclaim the Gospel not by focusing on itself, but by placing itself at the service of the infinite love with which God loved the world (cf. John 3:16),” the letter reads. “When homeless people near St. Peter’s Square were asked about their expectations regarding the Church on the occasion of this synod, they replied: ‘Love!’ This love must always remain the ardent heart of the Church, Trinitarian, and Eucharistic love.”

Jesus Christ’s love for us is perfect, it’s infinite, it’s agape. Throughout His ministry, the lowly, the outcast, the misunderstood were the ones He ministered to the most, showing us along the way what it means to love another unconditionally.

As the Synod on Synodality remains a hot topic in our Church, let us remember to, first and foremost, take to heart what Jesus intended for us all along. To be a people of love walking together as we discern the will of God for the Church and for our lives, all the while showing love and respect for each other as a child of God.

In other words, “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

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