“I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me” (First Reading).
“The word of God is something alive and active” (Second Reading).
“How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” (Gospel).
The First General assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, October 3-10, 2021, has concluded. This week I would like to add a few thoughts on this major event in the life of the Church in Australia. I am not a delegate nor a ‘periti’.
The previous Plenary Council was held against a background of the Great Depression, with dark clouds being generated by the likes of Hitler, Mussolini and Tito. “They”, the delegates, were, in the main, the Bishops and their chosen advisors, principally Theologians and Canon Lawyers. The meeting was private…it was, in essence, Bishops’ business. The Anglo Celtic laity, mainly white, watched and many prayed.
There are those who do not believe in change or in growth or in development, and who proclaim that nothing really changes!
The 2021 Plenary gathered this session, thanks to Zoom (with all the attending challenges), and certain sessions were open to all who tuned in. Covid and the fall out of the sexual abuse plague is causing a different depression, and China looms large as a dark cloud. “They” resemble in 2021, more the “They” who gathered in the upper room according to Acts 1:12-14. The Anglo Celtic composition this time was more Catholic, aided by the presence of the Melkite, Maronite, Ukrainian, Chaldeans and Syro-Malabar Bishops and Delegates. We are no longer the same composition of people as 1937. First Nations people have a prominent voice.
A feature of the gathering is an attempt to prayerfully discern what the Spirit is asking of us, today. Codification of practises is not central to the agenda.
Happily, it seems that more attention and time was set aside to allow the Spirit of wisdom to come, and it is evident that the Word of God is offered more space in daily deliberations. Over the centuries, reform has followed the rediscovery of the poor amongst us and the willingness of individuals “to sell everything you own and give the money to the poor and then follow me.”
Not all are called to be a St Francis of Assisi or a Mother Teresa or a Mary MacKillop. But that seems to be the way forward when we discern “the poor”.
We await Session Two in anticipation.
In the meantime, we can ponder the key phrases of the readings this week. How are we being called? When will we act? Renew your love of the Scripture.