Summary: The Pope’s new encyclical fits well with the Exodus account of a people oppressed and needing growth and development, but enslaved by a culture of death.

Caritas in Veritate

Monday of 15th week in Course

July 13, 2009

It is providential, perhaps, that we have in today’s readings all the elements for talking about the role of faith in society. Here we have an oppressed people, enslaved by an unjust system, whose children are being systematically murdered for the sake of the economy and politics. In the Gospel we have Jesus reminding us of the conflict that the preaching of the good news elicits–even with members of our families. He tells us to do good for others, especially those who are vulnerable. So this is a perfect day to begin a series of homilies on Pope Benedict’s brand-new encyclical, Love in Truth.

As the latest in a series of papal statements on social justice, a series that runs all the way back to Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891, this one stands out for two reasons. First, it treats the question of development–of both individuals and humanity in general. Second, it begins with charity, not justice. “Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.” Justice is the virtue that prompts us to give to everyone what is due him. But Charity provides the energy behind our pursuit of justice. We must love, first, and then we will want to do what is right and fair. As the Gospel tells us today, that will often involve picking up some cross so we can follow Christ. It may mean increasing the wages of our workers, or keeping one longer than secular prudence would suggest. It may mean changing our investments so we don’t directly support companies that promote abortion or stem-cell research. If the Gospel doesn’t cause us some inconvenience, we probably aren’t applying it well enough to our lives. It should cause us to “opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace.”

The title of the encyclical also tells us that charity must be informed by truth, and truth by charity. Defending the truth is an “exacting and indispensable form of charity.” We don’t love another person by letting him wallow in ignorance of the truth. It isn’t “sensitive” to let others think that a moral evil is tolerable, or even good. So some of what the Pope tells us will make us squirm a little. But it may prompt change for the better, and that will develop us as true followers of Jesus.

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