One of the dangers that face a religious institution is religiosity, that is, the reality that a persons faith or even the faith of an entire community, never gets beyond the stage of pious words and actions within the Church building. It is essential to the nature of faith that it become more that holy prayers in the Church; it needs to make a difference in the world outside. I am not campaigning for an activist understanding of faith that ignores the personal relationship an individual or a community builds with God. However, I am saying that Christianity is incomplete without a sense of commitment to building both the earthly Kingdom of God as well as his heavenly one. For example, a true person/community of faith cannot stand idly by when injustice reigns in the earthly kingdom. Faith demands that we fight injustice and never be satisfied until it is eliminated.

 

Yes, there are many dangers of getting over-focused on the earthly kingdom and that must be avoided. But fear of such a danger is not an excuse for inaction. It is imperative that all men and women of faith understand that there is a social element to the Gospel that is inimical to it. We see signs of this in Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and the fish. Jesus demonstrates a concern for the natural needs of the human person as he knows that they are essential for good health. The same needs to be true for us as we seek to proclaim the Gospel – there will be little gained for the Kingdom if people starve to death as we read them bible stories and call them to repentance!

 

Benedict XVI affirms the social dimension of the Gospel in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate. This is a document well worth reading by anyone concerned with the social demands upon our faith, let alone our humanity as we consider our place in a world made ever smaller by the many means of communication at our disposal. Social action cannot displace faith in God as being more important – it is a matter of seeing how the two come together in a mutually constructive relationship as we seek to be faithful to the demands of both the Gospel and our humanity.

 

What do I see as my role in the many social issues confronting the society in which I live? Should I be changing any of my attitudes to society? Should I understand my faith in a different way?

 

Holy Spirit, help me to open my heart to the fullest understanding of the role of the Gospel in my life. Help me to be generous in responding to its call in every area of my life.

By Fr Steve Tynan MGL