Summer 2k16 has shaken all of us in some way or another… the instability of politics, the violence of terrorist attacks, the arguments over the direction the church is going and so many other things have polarized our communities in a major way. In one of those paradoxes that God is so good at bringing to life, the summer of rage falls squarely in the Year of Mercy.
As Catholics, we have to ask ourselves what our role is in this time. How should we view the events around us and how should we react? How do we bring the peace of Christ to a world so enraged?
First and above all, we need to be united with Christ in prayer, and to see ourselves and others with His eyes. That means seeing the innate value of every individual as beloved by God, whether or not you agree with them, and treating them according to that dignity. Even on social media.
How? Christ himself told us what the greatest commandments are: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself…. And what is the definition of love?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 2 Cor 13:4-6
This needs to be our litmus test in how we interact with others. This is not just the standard we need to hold others to, but the mirror we need to hold up to ourselves, to our own actions and words first of all.
It’s critical that we know our faith- the Catechism, church teaching and history – not just the lessons bloggers with agendas want to promote. We need to read and prayerfully study church teaching. We need to recognize that the Church is bigger than any political party’s platform or any one country’s issues and has outlasted many empires, governments, dictators, persecutions and ideologies- always contributing truth, love and Christian witness, like a golden thread woven through history. The church is built on the blood of its martyrs- it isn’t going anywhere. Truth is rooted in love. How do we convince a post Christian society of that? St Edith Stein reveals the answer that many people intuitively know already:
Never accept something as truth if it lacks love, and never accept something as love if it lacks truth.
This means trusting Christ our Lord, who gave the keys to the kingdom to a pope who denied him 3 times at the Crucifixion, and carefully considering the source of any kind of insinuations that would make one doubt his current vicar on Earth. Do you need to agree with him all the time? No. But unless you are another Church-commissioned St Paul, are you really sure you are called to publicly denounce the Vicar of Christ on earth? How is that constructive? Is he personally taking advice from your Facebook page?
It means knowing that our voices and actions need to be raised against injustice, but more than just speaking against violence, we need to do good. With faith and knowledge comes responsibility. The responsibility to do good- in daily hidden ways and in any way we can impact the larger world around us. Ranting is easy. Criticism is easy. Christ calls us to do hard things, to love as he has loved and to bring his love to the world around us. This is the mission of Catholics, to love bravely.
In turbulence, our faith has to be seen. What we believe has to be more known than what we denounce. As we fight for the rights of Christians, we need to live the Christian life we are fighting for in an integral way- and with more joy than anger, more radical love than rage. As Mother Theresa prophetically encourages us:
Let us preach the peace of Christ like he did. He went about doing good; he did not stop his works of charity because the Pharisees and others hated him or tried to spoil his Father’s work. He just went about doing good.
Cardinal Newman wrote: ‘Help me to spread thy fragrance everywhere I go—let me preach thee without preaching, not by words but by my example—by the catching force; the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to thee.’ Our works of love are nothing but works of peace. Let us do them with greater love and efficiency—each in her own or his own work in daily life; in your home—in your neighbour. It is always the same Christ who says:
I was hungry—not only for food, but for peace that comes from a pure heart.
I was thirsty—not for water, but for peace that satiates the passionate thirst of passion for war.
I was naked—not for clothes, but for that beautiful dignity of men and women for their bodies.
I was homeless—not for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands, that covers, that loves.
This year let us be this to Christ in our neighbor.
Amen, Mother, amen.