My “day” vocation is as an analytical chemist. One of the experiments I am currently working on is a derivatization experiment where two flows need to be mixed together in order to test for the analyte I am interested in. The stream must join with a derivatization stream and then go through an elaborate mesh to mix into a homogeneous solution and thus, enable the derivatization to work and let me detect the analyte I am interested in.
Maybe I am being a little extreme in seeing “God in all things” as I put this experiment together, but in this moment, I saw what “synodality” means to me.
In my experiment, I am testing for a specific analyte in a formulation. You might say that I want it to “shine” above the other components in the formulation for me to see it. Each one of us wants to “shine” or stand out either in good ways, or in selfish ways such as in seeking attention, fame or self-gratification. For the sake of argument, our analyte is seeking to contribute to our formulation community in a good way.
God is looking for each of us just as I am searching for my analyte. God sees our light, even in our best efforts to avoid Him. God sees a wonderful creation, even when we don’t see it in ourselves. Amazingly, God sees everyone’s individual light shining in our collective space and time. We may seem at times to be lost in the crowd, but God sees us. We may feel jumbled and tossed around, but God gives us peace when our focus is on Him and not distracted.
So, in this experiment my analyte is placed in a stream, and I cannot yet distinguish it from the visible matrix. Aren’t there times when we feel invisible, yet we are there for everyone to see? Yet, I am never invisible to God. For me to see this analyte in the crowd, I need to help it to stand out. In doing so, I am not taking away its individuality, I am not impinging on its freedom. I am simply giving the analyte a voice. I am using its unique character to distinguish it without a loss of dignity.
God asks us to stand out in the crowd. We are to walk a different path from the rest. We are to use our gifts and uniqueness to preach glory of the Kingdom. Like our analyte, we are doing this while journeying together, not separate and apart.
On my analyte’s journey, I am going to combine it with another stream. This is where my mesh comes in. For me to see this analyte, I need add to the formulation a stream which will react with it and let my analyte shine is a new way so I can detect it. The mesh allows the two streams to join together and mix into a new homogenous stream. Yet, my analyte is still there, its characteristics have not changed, only its shine has been highlighted in a manner for me to see. In our faith, we tend to avoid other streams coming into our flow. We like our way, our flow. Combining streams can be disruptive, but it is the only way we can be one again. We are to journey together and not in separate streams.
Still, there are days when my analyte doesn’t shine in my homogenous stream. I fail to detect it. I blame my analyte but, the issue is usually me. I inhibit my analyte’s flow or worse, I fail to pay attention and miss a significant detail. I focus on the reward and forget the work it takes to get there. I assume it is my analyte’s fault until data shows me otherwise. It is bad science not to be open to views outside our own assumptions. It is bad faith when we let our assumptions rule as well. We must be open in order to see the data of God in all His wonderful interactions with His creation.
Our parishes can be a great melting pot without walking together, without letting our streams combine. I don’t go to Spanish and Polish masses (Latin either) for I don’t speak the language. By keeping my stream on its own path, I miss out on the opportunity to see God loving his creation in amazing ways. We don’t journey together to simply bring about conformity. We journey together to witness to the experience of God in everyone. We tend to want to horde such gifts in our streams, but God doesn’t work that way. God wants our gifts to flow from us into others. Our combined streams are meant to result in an ocean of God’s love. We initially fear dilution but by joining together we have opened ourselves to the well-spring of life.
When we “fear the dilution,” we are thinking too small. We cannot dilute ourselves from God. God knew us before we were born and knows which stars our atoms came from. Our egos may feel diminished, and that is a good thing. We are to flow humbly in our stream. St. Paul reminds us that we are “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) God sees us as the homogenous stream, a collective of wonderful, dignified individuals. We fear being lost in a collective that God sees through. He calls us to a faith that cares for each part of the collective. A faith where no stream is branched off and forgotten. Our collective is not only to shine with the love the Gospel but with an intention for all to see.
Synodality is our homogeneous stream. It is our journeying together in a common love of God. A stream of the lifegiving water of the Gospel for all to take nourishment from. Dogma doesn’t come from love. Dogma is taught in love, not rules. The paradox too few of us see is that discipline in living the Gospel leads to greater freedom.
If we truly love Jesus, we will want to live His words. Love ourselves more and those words are stymied. Focusing on only my views, my tradition or my doctrine strangles the flow of God’s love. In isolation, our stream will never reach the ocean of God’s love.
Like my analyte, be open to mesh and shine for all to see.