From the Directors' Desk:
Synod To Address Unfinished Work of Vatican II
The Bible must figure as centrally in Catholic life as the Eucharist.
The working document (Instrumentum Laboris) for October’s Synod on the Word gives every indication that church leaders will at last address an unfinished work of the Second Vatican Council, namely that the Bible must figure as centrally in Catholic life as the Eucharist. An editorial in the July 7 Jesuit weekly America calls for revitalized preaching to be at the top of the synod's agenda: “Too many of the faithful feel unenlightened and undernourished by what they hear each week from the pulpit.”
Indeed, the Instrumentum asks for expanded attention to biblical preaching and practical programs of biblical study for laity and clergy alike. It sees these as important ways of helping the People of God discover and deepen their personal relationship with the Word, and to counter the fundamentalist interpretations to which many fall prey.
The documentis accessible and theologically up to date compared to the one used for the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. It beautifully unpacks the rich spiritual dynamic at work in those who love and ponder Scripture. Such reflection becomes a graced encounter with the Word of God living, active and capable of transforming believers who themselves become a word of God in a needy world: “The Word of God is not encased in abstract or static formulas, but has a dynamic power in history which is made up of persons and events, words and actions, developments and tensions…the ‘history of salvation’ continues its effects through time in the Church.”(p. 13)
Fears that the Vatican might use the synod to curtail modern methods of biblical study were not supported. The Instrumentum readily affirms the value of historical-critical and other methods of bible study as important means of enhancing biblical reflection.
While some commentaries anticipated only anemic attention to ecumenical concerns, in fact Chapter VIII includes a discussion of ecumenism, dialogue between Christians and Jews, and interreligious dialogue with Muslims and other non-Christian religions.
Not unexpectedly there was no mention of the “hidden women of the lectionary” that inspired FutureChurch's Women and the Word campaign. Yet, Mary of Nazareth is named as an important model of discipleship: “She teaches us not to stand by as idle spectators before the Word of Life, but to become participants, making our own the “here I am” of the prophet (Is 6:8) and allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, who abides in us.” (p.24) It would be wise for synod bishops to also lift up other prophetic biblical women such as Mary of Magdala, Phoebe, Prisca and Junia who proclaimed the Word to hungry hearts.
An important concern named by several commentators is that very few of the synod's bishops have a reputation for biblical expertise. So it is welcome news that some female biblical experts perhaps several suggested by FutureChurch's Women and the Word campaign, will likely be invited. (See cover story).
Designed to guide the synod agenda, the Instrumentum's contents were compiled from feedback given by bishops' conferences, curial dicasteries, heads of religious orders, and individual bishops, priests, theologians and laity. It was drafted with the “assistance of experts” whose profound insights about the absolute necessity for expanded biblical reflection in the church make for enriching spiritual reading in and of itself. The full text is available at: