KOFFI TANOH FIRMIN, mxy
My dear brothers and my dear fathers, the whole Church led by our able Pope Francis has been calling us to reflect, share, think about, promote, spread and above all live in a spirit of synodality; which to me is an invitation to all the sons and daughters of the Church to re-analyze our life of togetherness, of being one in our uniqueness and differences. It is really true that we are all unique, precious and important. Therefore, we are in dear need of one another.
I think that Pope Francis, through the process of synodality is inviting us to re-actualize and re-awaken our understanding of being Church; the Church understood as the people of God, the body of Christ in which all the members are treasured and find their “raison d’etre.” This is to mean that without one member the body is incomplete and experiences ‘mal-formation’ and ‘deformation.’ Indeed, the process of synodality stresses a life of unity (different from uniformity), a life of solidarity with one another, a life of humaness which some African cultures call “Ubuntu.” It is a life that helps us exclaim whenever we see another person “This is the bone of my bones, the flesh of my flesh ( cf. Gn 2: 23)” because it is quite true that we all share the ‘DNA’ of God no matter our culture, continent, social-economic class and position, age, etc. In the spirit of synodality, the attitude of, ‘we’ and ‘them’ are replaced by ‘TODOS’, ‘ALL’, ‘TOUS-ENSEMBLE.’
It is a great joy for me that even before the official call to synodality guided by the 3-Ions: Communion, participation and mission, we the Yarumal Missionaries have been reflecting on and emphasizing these three values which are core to our charism. We are in real need of working together. We either accept this fact or we all perish or abandon the “good fight of faith (1 Tim 6: 12).” We need one another for each one has something to offer. What can an institution be without members? Can we even talk about the existence of an institute at all if it has no members or if members live as foreigners in their own land?
Here, I am reaffirming that the participation of every individual member of/in the institute is of paramount importance, no matter who he is, where he comes from, what he has. We all count, we all have something to offer however little that contribution can be. Let us not stop participating. The Institute is our common home.
However, for participation to be more effective we need to create more rooms for involvement at every level, more commitment in our responsibilities as we foster the spirit of deep listening to everyone. We need to listen to one another not only/just with our physical ears but with our hearts. If we really agree that deep listening is key to synodality then we also need to be ready to listen to everything and anything and not simply what we want to hear. This listening entails that we go to the true source of information as we avoid second hand information or become ‘titrologues’ (the action of reading only the headlines of a newspaper).
Our image per excellence is Christ our Lord, the Incarnated word, who was ever in contacted with his people and who dares to meet, encounter and listen to even those who were rejected by society. He did not fear to meet lepers (Lk 17: 12-19). He did not feel ashamed to eat with sinners and tax collectors (Mk 2: 15). All this, because he knew that everyone is important and deserves attention and proper listening. Truly, proper listening, listening with unconditional positive regard (with non judgmental attitudes and preconceived ideas), and stillness brings about healing and new life.
Jesus our Lord and model of life was also having a good spirit of ‘healthy curiosity.’ In the synagogue, he was listening, asking questions and challenging the scribes (Lk 2: 46). Knowing that his mission was heavy and that that mission could be boring while alone he decided to involve men and women (disciples, apostles and even his mother). He did not hesitate to give key roles to some of his followers. He was not doing everything by himself he knew how to delegate and trust the people to whom he entrusted the mission.
Our institute, though small has able men as members, willing members who work day and night for the good of all. They sacrifice their individual interests for the common good of the institute. Their example of life gives courage to many. Their efforts need to be recognized and appreciated. Moreover, for more communion, participation and effective mission our Institute is structured in different offices (regional councils, secretariats etc.) so that at every level deep discernment be done, prayerful and adequate decisions be made. Their free, and proper functioning can foster the true principle of subsidiarity. If we created these offices in the institute, I believe it is because they are important. My request, my plea, my appeal is that the principle of subsidiarity be fostered and emphasized in line with the process and spirit of synodality. What is synodality without subsidiarity and deep listening to members of the body.
Finally, it is good to mention that synodality and subsidiarity are not new ways of being Church, but a real, true, and authentic ways of being the people of God, the mystical body of Christ.
KOFFI TANOH FIRMIN, mxy
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