Verbum Domini: the Word of God and commitment in the world

Column Kieran Fenn fms Serving Jesus in ‘the least of his brethren’ #99-101 Matthew 25:35-36 emphasises our need to be engaged in the world and our responsibility before Christ to…


Kieran Fenn fms

Serving Jesus in ‘the least of his brethren’ #99-101

Verbum Domini: the Word of God and commitment in the world Archdiocese of WellingtonMatthew 25:35-36 emphasises our need to be engaged in the world and our responsibility before Christ to do good and commit ourselves to justice, reconciliation and peace. Every effort has to be made to create a more just and liveable world. The ‘signs of the times’ are present in history and our Christian responsibility is not to flee from a commitment to those who suffer and the victims of forms of selfishness. These are essential elements of evangelisation.

God’s word ought to inspire the activities of those who take part in political and social life as they work for the true common good in respecting and promoting the dignity of every person. While it is not the task of the Church to directly create a more just society, the Church does have the right and duty to intervene on ethical and moral issues related to the good of individuals and peoples. A suitable formation in the social teaching of the Church is strongly recommended that the human rights of every person be defended and promoted.

Personal response
A consistent ethic of life would heed Blessed Pope John Paul II’s statement that ‘The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil’. The death penalty is ‘Cruel and unnecessary and must be abolished’, the pontiff declared. Thus, state-sanctioned killing of criminals is no longer justifiable. Catholicism does not accept retribution as a reason for execution.

Social teaching is an essential part of our faith, in fact a ‘constitutive part of the gospel’. Our very existence as Church is weakened by our unawareness of the important issues the world faces. One example is ‘We do not perceive any situation in which the deliberate initiation of nuclear warfare on however restricted a scale can be morally justified. Non-nuclear attacks by another state must be resisted by other than nuclear means’. US Bishops, The Challenge of Peace (1983) 150.

Proclamation, reconciliation and peace: #102-103
Christ ‘is our peace’ (Eph 2:14), the one who breaks down the walls of division. Grave and violent conflicts and tensions are all too present on our planet. At times these seem to take on the appearance of inter-religious conflict. Religion can never justify intolerance or war. We cannot kill in God’s name! Civil coexistence demands the right use of reason and that the promotion of ethical values be encouraged.

The word of God we hear requires that we see more clearly the bond between a love-filled hearing and selfless service to our brothers and sisters. This is the only way to make the gospel proclamation credible, despite the human weakness that marks individuals. To awaken ‘charity and justice towards all, especially towards the poor’ is the aim for constantly committed individuals and an ecclesial community. ‘Whoever claims to have understood the scriptures, or any part of them, without striving as a result to grow in this twofold love of God and neighbour, makes it clear that they have not yet understood them’ (Augustine).

Personal response
This month’s parliamentary elections raise the question of voting as a moral choice. Are we dominated by self-interest or do we have space for the question, ‘Which party will better care for the poorest section of our population in the face of a deteriorating economic situation?’

The word of God and young people #104
The synod paid special attention to the proclamation of God’s word to the younger generation who are already active members of the Church. (The New Zealand Bishops speak of young people as the Church’s present rather than its future!). Only God can truly answer the genuine and irrepressible questions sparked by the sincere desire of young people to know Jesus. They need witnesses and teachers who can walk with them, teaching them to love the gospel and share it, especially with their peers, and become credible messengers.

Authentic vocations to the consecrated life and priesthood find fertile ground in a faith-filled contact with the word of God. ‘If we let Christ into our lives, we lose absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great’ (Message from 2006 WYD).

Personal response
Congratulations to those who chose the Religious Questions section of the O’Shea Shield in May. These questions put squarely before some of our brightest young people the issues of economic and practical justice as seen by Pope Benedict, Blessed John XXIII, and the New Zealand bishops. Having had the privilege of helping the St Bernard’s College team, I found it exciting that some of our political, economic and social leaders have understood the Church’s social justice message better than some of our current leaders.

To migrants, the suffering, the poor #105—107
The delicate question of the security of nations and the welcome given to those seeking refuge or improved conditions of living, health and work is also to be seen in light of a new possibility for the spread of God’s word. If human words seem to fall silent before the mystery of evil and suffering, and if our society appears to value life only when it corresponds to certain standards of efficiency and well-being, against this is asserted that human life deserves to be fully lived even when weakened by illness and pain. Scripture manifests God’s special love for the poor and needy. ‘The poor are the first ones entitled to hear the proclamation of the gospel; they need not only bread, but also the words of life.’ (Proposition 11).