As delegates prepare for the October 4th opening of the Synod on Synodality assembly, I'm moved to reflect on sources of division and hope. 

What do I mean by "sources?" Sources are causes that spark an effect, in this case division and/or hope. 

According to the Catholic News Agency, “We may be divided by different hopes,” Father Timothy Radcliffe said in a retreat meditation on Oct. 1, “But if we listen to the Lord and to each other, seeking to understand his will for the Church and the world, we shall be united in a hope that transcends all our disagreements.”

Sources (or causes) of division:

Fr. Radcliffe's words suggest that sources of division include: different hopes for the future of the Church, fear of change, fear of no change, personal limitations and limited points of view based on our identities, different understandings of the current reality, and different visions for the future.

These sources of division highlight our differences, cause fear, and divide us. When we only see difference, we cannot listen with an open heart. We fail to seek deeper understanding. And we retreat to what is familiar--to that which divided us in the first place. Seems a bit hopeless, doesn't it? 

Sources (or causes) of hope:

Fr. Radcliffe's words also shed light on two powerful sources hope, which include: listening (to the Lord and to each other), and seeking to understand his will for the Church and the world. 

Listening to each other is a source or cause of hope. This is a powerful concept to meditate on, and one that I reflect on quite a bit in my forthcoming book "Sacred Conversations: How God Wants us to Communicate." Listening opens our minds and our hearts to new ways of understanding

Listening provides an avenue to familiarize ourself with the sources of division that prevent us from journeying forward together (namely fear of difference and fear of change). When we listen to seek deeper understanding, we must move closer to that which we fear. We must ask questions. We must suspend judgement. And we must act from a place of love and compassion.

This isn't always easy. Call to mind the times when you fail to listen in this way--the times when you fail to listen with lovingkindness like God wants you to.

Listening to God's will is a second source of hope, according to Radcliffe. Listening to God's will for his people and his Church involves attending to movements of the spirit--to that which consoles (goodness, light, unity, justice, peace, etc.). 


The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Listen to me in silence, O islands; let the people renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgement." (41:1) "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you , I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand" (41:10). 

Keep those in Rome who have gathered for Synod on Synodality, to listen to each other and to discern God's will for our Holy Church, in your prayers over the next three weeks. 

Pray for the grace of listening and the discernment of God's will. Pray for hope, strength, love, and peace.

About the author 

Christopher Reed, Ph.D.

Author of "Sacred Conversations: How God Wants us to Communicate."

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