Years ago, when we were living in Rochester, New York, my wife and I often attended services at a Catholic church that was, if one can say it, “synodally alive.” A dwindling inner-city parish, Corpus Christi, had been transformed by its pastor, Fr. Jim Callan, into a vibrant community. Synodal means “traveling together,” and Corpus Christi had more sorts of folks celebrating Mass together than we had ever experienced before or since: rich and poor, Black and white, gay and straight, even residents from a nearby mental hospital who sometimes seemed to speak in tongues. We talk about “celebrating” Mass, but at Corpus Christi it was a real celebration. There were lively Gospel hymns, and at the kiss of peace the congregation dissolved into a surging crowd of hugs and pats, peace signs and, where appropriate, genuine kisses. At Communion, Fr. Callan would announce: “Anyone who takes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is welcome to come forward to receive communion.” That open Communion announcement was, it seems to me, at the heart of synodality.
What does it mean to “take Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?” Start with “take.” This is a strong “take,” as in the marriage vow, “I take you as my lawful wedded wife.” To “take” Jesus as Lord and Savior is to seal one’s life in a vow. Committing to Jesus as Lord and Savior commits one to living a Christ life. No one has expressed what it means to live a Christ life better than Dostoevsky’s Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov. There Alyosha speaks his Christ commitment: “I am responsible for everyone and everything and I more than anyone else.” This passage has also been translated as: “I am guilty for everyone and everything and I more than anyone else.”