Synodality and the Reign of God

By Jeff Hood, 3 October 2023
Synod Members in discussion during a reflection evening at St John XXIII Catholic College, Stanhope Gardens. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Jesus tells us that the Reign of God is near at hand, is “among you”. (Luke 17:21) When a monarch reigns, there is a particular set of relationships that define that reign – as benevolent, as oppressive, as evil, as life-giving. So, how are we to understand the nature of God’s Reign? One way, amongst others, is to look through the lens of relationality. The concept of relationality places relationships at the centre of our identity.

We can’t think of Trinity without understanding the deep relationality that exists within the Trinity. The Trinity is relational at its core. This perfect relationality is based on love, self-giving and self-emptying (kenosis) – all in ways that are beyond our understanding, yet shown to us in the person of Jesus. The Father loves the Son absolutely, and that love is the Holy Spirit. The Incarnation itself is God’s act of self-giving for the salvation of the world, culminating in the Paschal Mystery, where Jesus showed the fullness of God’s love for us. God was willing to die for us and in doing so brought the fullness of life. In sending the Holy Spirit, God is with us in real and tangible ways. Where Trinitarian relationality is present, God reigns.

As Church, we are called to be a concrete, living communion of Trinitarian relationality. It is only when we are truly loving, and striving, through God’s grace, to embody the ways of relating that Jesus modelled for us, that we become prophetic. St Francis urged his brothers to preach the Good News, and, if necessary, use words. A life lived in accordance with the relationality inherent in the Reign of God is a life that speaks to the world. We see this in the lives of the Saints. A community that becomes a communion, because of its embrace of the self-emptying, self-giving and loving way of God has an even more powerful voice. It has the power to transform the world. This is God’s work, but requires our “yes”, not just in word, but from the core of our being – from the heart.

Synodality must be more than a list of processes, attitudes, behaviours and plans, as important as these are. The Heart of Synodality is a way of being, a way of relating. The other qualities flow from this core. The Synod is not about changing core doctrines. In some ways, it is about the Church undergoing an examen of consciousness, to seek a consolidation of relational patterns that embrace Jesus’ way of being. The fundamental question is: how well are we embracing the relationality of Jesus?

If we are not prophetic, we are not truly evangelising. Our words will have little power to change the world if we are not living in a way that shows Christ’s presence amongst us. The world will only believe the Good News if it sees Christ’s presence manifested in the way we relate with each other. Children, our love must not be just words or mere talk, but something active and genuine. (1 John 3:18) The Gospel must be lived, not just spoken.

The behavioural qualities and dispositions that characterise Synodality have a coherence based on the Reign of God. When we embrace the Trinitarian relationality of love, self-giving and kenosis, we will exhibit qualities like love, kindness, non-judgmental attitude, tolerance, compassion and listening. Communion, Participation and Mission will follow from hearts built on love, and on fidelity to God’s call. We cannot claim to be living according to God’s will if we are indifferent to each other.

This is all God’s work. We can’t achieve it by our own doing, but when we trust in the Spirit and say ‘yes’ to God’s call, we cooperate with Jesus’ mission to the world. In a sense, Synodality is a call to return to the roots of Covenant, to hear the voice of the prophets, to hear anew the Good News, and to build our relationships in conformity with the Reign of God.

Jeff Hood is a seminarian at the Diocese of Parramatta’s Holy Spirit Seminary, currently ministering at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.


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