The Christian involvement in the world
The Gospel today mandates believers to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path (Jn. 1:23). Every Christian is called to preach the Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to captives, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Lk 4:18). The Good News incarnated in Jesus Christ seeks to free human beings from the sin inside them and from sinful social structures outside them.
The Church should challenge our nation with the message of the cross. We must live according to the teachings of the crucified Christ with uncompromising rigor. The message of the need for forgiveness and redemption in the postmodern world will not be popular, but the world both needs and deserves to hear it clearly so that it might be given the chance to know the liberating truth and find meaning in life.
The Second Vatican Council begins with this declaration: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi declared that God’s plan of salvation “touches the very concrete situations of injustice to be combated and of justice to be restored.”
Salvation has a two-edged purpose—to free the poor from the slavery of injustice and to free the rich from their selfish attachment to money and power so that everyone, rich and poor alike, will be free to journey towards an ever-increasing spiritualization. Vatican II teaches that every human being has the right “to possess a sufficient amount of the earth’s goods for himself and his family” (GS 68).
Christianity views the human being as a whole, in the entirety of his or her socio-economic- political-cultural-spiritual dimensions. To talk of saving the soul alone in the context of hunger, destitution, oppression and injustice is to see the human being as a disembodied spirit. This kind of understanding relegates God and faith into a safe compartment: as the sayings go, “goes to heaven on Sunday and to hell on Monday,” “prays to God on Sunday and preys on his neighbors the rest of the week.”
Christians are confronted with the choice of being the master or the victim of change —to walk straight towards the future in the light of the Cross or be dragged by their feet through a series of violent, bloody upheavals.
The role of prophet
The Christian in the world is now being called to play the role of prophet.
God in a totally vertical orientation could become encapsulated in a few harmless devotions and an undemanding set of abstract doctrines, which soon degenerates into irrelevancy or outright unbelief. This kind of religion which is simply a sociological and cultural phenomenon would only lead to the maintenance of oppressive sinful structures. It would not contribute anything toward setting people free to have more in order to be more. This the kind of privatized, disincarnate religion, called by Marx “the opium of the people,” will be a hindrance to making the path of the coming Messiah straight.
Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Popolurum Progressio, (The Development of Peoples) spoke of “building a world where every man, regardless of race, religion or nationality, can live a fully human life, free of the servitude that comes from other men and the incompletely mastered world about him.” This is one way of saying that Christians, in endeavoring to help create the “new human being,” are convinced that the gospel message is incompatible with an unjust, alienating society.
If the coming Kingdom as a Kingdom of peace, justice and the integrity of creation is the fulfillment of the human being’s social and individual destiny, to struggle to build an earth where there will be no oppression and slavery is to struggle to fulfill human destiny and the destiny of the universe. It is also to anticipate the coming of this Kingdom. The eschatological vision of the Christian faith become operative and creative in being dedicated to bringing about a just and peaceful society.
The sensitive issue of involvement in the world was touched upon by Pope John Paul II at the opening of the Bishops’ Conference at Puebla: “If the Church makes herself present in the defense of, or in the advancement of man, she does so in line with her mission which, although it is religious and not social or political, cannot fail to consider man in the entirety of his being.”
The Church has learned in the pages of the Gospel that her evangelizing mission has, as an essential part, to engage in action for justice and undertake the task of the advancement of human beings, and that between evangelization and human advancement there are very strong links of the orders of anthropology, theology and love (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 31). Evangelization would not be complete if it did not take into account the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of the human being’s complete life, both personal and social.
Today the cross of Christ is heavily inflicted on the poor of this world, on those who suffer because of environmental destruction, on the innocent victims of war and terror. The follower of Christ is asked to take up this cross and be prepared for rejection and persecution. Suffering reminds us of what is really important, forces us to depend radically on the Trinity, purifies our will so that it will obey. It teaches us that the social dimension, the human effort to build the earth, is not outside God’s plan, but is intimately involved with the dynamic of the Kingdom.
In line with Church teaching, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, through its Office of Women, has written a pastoral letter calling for a National Day of Prayer to End Human Trafficking during the season of Advent.
All over the world, women, men and children are forced into prostitution, hard labor, cybersex/pornography, and other forms of exploitation, treated as objects, deceived, raped, often sold many times for different evil purposes. Human trafficking is a $32 billion enterprise inflicted on an estimated 27 million victims, including many Filipinos.
Pope Francis has called human trafficking a “crime against humanity.” All Masses for the Third Sunday of Advent all over the country will be offered for the victims to raise awareness of this scourge, prevent further depredations of innocent lives, and pray for the conversion of traffickers.
The Word of God announces the power of the Spirit and the right of everyone to experience God’s love, healing and salvation. To participate in Jesus commitment to change situations of suffering (Lk. 4:18-19) is to participate in his love for the world, to move out of our egocentric world toward commitment to the cosmos and to other sentient beings.