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The seed germinates

As this phase of the Synod on the future of the Church comes to a close on Sunday, 29th October, and the delegates prepare to return home, Father Timothy Radcliffe, OP, offered the following spiritual reflection on Tuesday 24th October, entitled:  ‘The seed germinates.’

This is a very apt and beautiful meditation that we too, as Church, can live together. Growing a fertile presence that can listen, discern and that knows how to wait for the abundant harvest.

In a few days’ time, we shall go home for eleven months. This will apparently be a time of empty waiting. But it will probably be the most fertile time of the whole Synod, the time of germination. As Jesus said: ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, yet he does not know how’.

We have listened to hundreds of thousands of words during these last three weeks. Sometimes we have thought: ‘Too many words!’  Most of these words have been positive, words of hope and aspiration. These are words sown in the soil of the Church. They will be at work in our lives, in our imagination and our subconscious, during these eleven months. When the moment is right, they will bear fruit.

(Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP – Spiritual Reflection, Synodal Assembly, Oct 2023).

He goes on to explain that although nothing may appear to be happening, we can be confident that if our words are loving they will bud, flower in the lives of people who we do not know.

As St Therese of Lisieux said, quoted recently by the Holy Father: “C’est la confiance et rien que la confiance qui doit nous conduire à l’Amour”. “It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love”.

A time of active waiting

This is a time of active waiting, repeating the words of Simone Weil which he had already quoted during the retreat.

‘We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them …This way of waiting, looking is, in the first place, attentive. The soul empties itself of its own contents in order to receive the human being it is looking at, just as he or she is, in all their truth.’

(Simone Weil, Waiting on God, trans Emma Crauford, London 1959, p.169).

This he continues,  is profoundly countercultural. The global culture of our time is often polarised, aggressive, dismissive of other people’s views. The cry is: On whose side are you? When we go home, people will ask, ‘Did you fight for our side? Did you oppose those unenlightened other people?’ We shall need be profoundly prayerful to resist the temptation to succumb to a party-political way of thinking.

To fall back into the sterile, barren language of much of our conflictual society, is not the synodal way. The synodal process is organic and ecological rather than competitive. It is more like planting a tree than winning a battle.

If we keep our minds and our hearts open to the people whom we have met here, vulnerable to their hopes and fears, their words will germinate in our lives, and ours in theirs. And there will an abundant harvest, a fuller truth, the Church will be renewed.

Humanity’s first vocation in Paradise was to be gardeners. Adam tended creation, speaking God’s creative words, naming the animals.

We shall have some gardening to do in these eleven months, my brothers and sisters to nurture the tender plant that is the Synod.

(Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP – Spiritual Reflection, Synodal Assembly, Oct 2023).

We can ask of ourselves the same questions that Fr. Timothy Radcliffe proposes to the participants at the Synodal Assembly:

  • Will we speak fertile, hope-filled words, or words that are destructive and cynical?
  • Will our words nurture the crop or be poisonous?
  • Will we be the gardeners of the future or trapped in old sterile conflicts? We each choose.

Fr. Timothy concludes with the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians:

‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear’ (4.9).


You can read the full presentation by Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP at this link:

Spiritual reflection by Fr Timothy Radcliffe-at16th-Synodal Assembly October 2023

See also https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/


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