Summary: "the service of charity is also a constituent element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being."
Thursday of the 29th Week in Course 2016
Joy of the Gospel
Why did Herod and the Pharisees hate Jesus so much that they endeavored to kill Him, and not only once? And why ultimately did Jesus lay this curse on Jerusalem, or, rather, turn their curse on themselves, so that in 67 AD the Jews revolted against the Romans, only to bring terrible retribution on themselves and the destruction of the city and Temple three years later? Ultimately it is because the city and the people had committed terrible injustices, especially upon the poor. And, in turn, it was the poor who turned to Jesus, who turned to the Church, who heeded the prophetic voice of Jesus and left Judea for the east when the Romans attacked. They survived while the Jews were sold into slavery.
We cannot pretend to be missionary disciples of Jesus unless we are committed to social justice, to helping the poor, the unborn, the aged, the disabled. The Pope continues in his encyclical: ‘The kerygma has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. The content of the first proclamation has an immediate moral implication centred on charity.
‘To believe in a Father who loves all men and women with an infinite love means realizing that “he thereby confers upon them an infinite dignity”. To believe that the Son of God assumed our human flesh means that each human person has been taken up into the very heart of God. To believe that Jesus shed his blood for us removes any doubt about the boundless love which ennobles each human being. Our redemption has a social dimension because “God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person, but also the social relations existing between men”. To believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone means realizing that he seeks to penetrate every human situation and all social bonds: “The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, even the most complex and inscrutable”. Evangelization is meant to cooperate with this liberating work of the Spirit. The very mystery of the Trinity reminds us that we have been created in the image of that divine communion, and so we cannot achieve fulfilment or salvation purely by our own efforts. From the heart of the Gospel we see the profound connection between evangelization and human advancement, which must necessarily find expression and develop in every work of evangelization. Accepting the first proclamation, which invites us to receive God’s love and to love him in return with the very love which is his gift, brings forth in our lives and actions a primary and fundamental response: to desire, seek and protect the good of others.
‘This inseparable bond between our acceptance of the message of salvation and genuine fraternal love appears in several scriptural texts which we would do well to meditate upon, in order to appreciate all their consequences. The message is one which we often take for granted, and can repeat almost mechanically, without necessarily ensuring that it has a real effect on our lives and in our communities. How dangerous and harmful this is, for it makes us lose our amazement, our excitement and our zeal for living the Gospel of fraternity and justice! God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: “As you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). The way we treat others has a transcendent dimension: “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mt 7:2). It corresponds to the mercy which God has shown us: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you… For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:36-38). What these passages make clear is the absolute priority of “going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters” as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift. For this reason, “the service of charity is also a constituent element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being”. By her very nature the Church is missionary; she abounds in effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes.’