Gospel Reflection for September 2 2018: Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year
By Martin McNamara MSC
The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Where is the Christian Vision gone? The Church in public life
This reflection on the Sunday readings for this day was first put up for 2012. While its content would hold for all times and places, it is more relevant for Ireland in our day than ever before, With the visit of Pope Francis and the stated clear position of the State on the issue, the Church, the Catholic community, is called on to redefine itself in the present circumstances in accord with its rich Christian tradition, and to put its vision into effect in deeds, not just in words. A social affairs commentator remarked that the Irish Catholic people had by its religious authorities been marshalled rather than taught. What is called for now is that it be taught, informed on its rich heritage, and this in keeping with the oft-repeated exhortation of St Peter, to be able and ready to give an answer to the hope, the faith, that they hold. It is important that all of us be willing to be taught in our faith, by methods yet to be devised.
More than once we now hear statements by politicians that the Church can have no place in public life, as if this were a danger to the proper running of public affairs. Among academics there can be perceived an anti-clericalism, even an anti-Christian attitude, with a desire and an effort to exclude Christian theology and Christian ministers of religion from the academic field. The drive towards this end has been ongoing for a long time. The mentality behind it has been expressed as follows by the Second Vatican Council in its pastoral Constitution in the Church in the modern world (7 December 1965): “There seems to be some apprehension today that a close association between human activity and religion will endanger the autonomy of the human person, of organizations and of science”.
A prevailing attitude of this sort should be a call for believers to reflect on the issues and reacquaint themselves with the fundamental principles concerning the issues involved. It should be an occasion to recall and reawaken the Christian vision of life, and work for the presence of the Church in public affairs.
Fundamental to Christian belief are the two basic commandments, on which the whole of Jewish expectation and Christian message depend, love of God and love of one’s neighbour: “You shall love the Lord with all your heart. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). One implies the other. Belief in God requires involvement in all that is truly human. The Letter of James puts is clearly: “Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world” (James 1:27).
The Church, the believing community, has been active living these commandments throughout history, in social welfare, care for weak and neglected, in education, in the arts, in literature and the sciences. It is believers, the Church, that have given us the modern world, a strong element of which would wish to forget it. Modern social values of care for the weak, of reconciliation rather than revenge, and a host of other values, are parts of the rich Christian heritage.
This Christian heritage calls on us all to know its value and defend it.