Summary: An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world
Thursday of the 31st Week in Course 2016
Joy of the Gospel
We stand now very close to the conclusion of our liturgical year, our holy year of grace and mercy that concludes on the Feast of Christ the King. I’m doubly blessed because I get to celebrate Christ the King Sunday twice. In the Extraordinary Form, Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday of October, just as it was when the feast was instituted. But the Latin form is not a separate rite. I still celebrate my daily offices according to the Novus Ordo. So both Sundays are celebrations of Christ the King.
The end of the liturgical year is rife with readings such as our Gospel today. The Pharisees wanted to know when the kingdom of God would come, when would God throw the Romans out and establish the rule of David. We, too, ask God when He will call for the trumpet to be blown, when the Lord Jesus will return and put an end to all the political power grabs, the endless wars, the oppression of goodness and exaltation of corruption. But God wants all to be saved. When the angel’s trumpet sounds, it’s too late for repenting of sins and change of heart. God wants to give humans every chance to take advantage of His merciful love. Look at Paul’s letter to the slave-owner Christian, Philemon. This was just one in a long series of Christian pleas to the culture to respect the dignity of enslaved humans. Ultimately, in Christian lands slavery was abolished, but it took nearly two thousand years, and it’s still not eradicated world-wide. That was just one way true Christian hope has always generated history, in the Pope’s words.
The Holy Father continues: ‘The Church’s teachings concerning contingent situations are subject to new and further developments and can be open to discussion, yet we cannot help but be concrete – without presuming to enter into details – lest the great social principles remain mere generalities which challenge no one. There is a need to draw practical conclusions, so that they “will have greater impact on the complexities of current situations”. The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfilment in eternity, for he has created all things “for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone. It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life “related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good”.
‘Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. Who would claim to lock up in a church and silence the message of Saint Francis of Assisi or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? They themselves would have found this unacceptable. An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics”, the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”. All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world. This is essential, for the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it unites “its own commitment to that made in the social field by other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, whether at the level of doctrinal reflection or at the practical level”.’
Let’s be especially wary of politicians who use the term “freedom of worship.” That has become a catch-phrase for people who want no presence of the church in the public square. What we have in the U.S. is “freedom of religion.” That means we must bring our faith into every aspect of life, and challenge Catholic politicians to base public decisions on eternal truth.