ENGAGE in the task of evangelization.
Christian optimism is not a blind faith in human progress. We are well aware of the ambiguities of progress and the misuses of freedom. It is rather a hope in Jesus who has risen and gone ahead, but who is present with us now. Because he has promised that he will always be with us until the end of time, we are assured of final victory.
The celebration of the Ascension means that Jesus the Christ holds every person’s future and the future of the whole world in his hands. He is still present now in the world, in the Church, and in a special way in the Eucharist. In his real presence Jesus makes present, in himself, and in an anticipatory way, the ultimate future of the world and of each person—for he contains that ultimate future himself.
In the light of this constant presence, the Christian’s involvement in the struggle for justice, peace and human development is to be seen as a response to this presence. As Christians, we are called to participate in the struggle to transform humanity from within, to collaborate in the establishment of a just social order and to help those who wage a relentless war against famine, ignorance, disease and greed in order to better every human being’s way of life and assure a sustainable future for coming generations.
The Eucharist teaches that the universe is one communion and relationship with the Trinity. The most intimate moment of participation in the Eucharist is also the most intimate communion with the earth from where we gather the bread and wine we eat and drink together.
We have to roll up our sleeves and stop looking up to heaven as we battle injustice, war and terror and the ravaging of our eco-systems, and think about what we can do as we line up a kilometer long because the MRT is so decrepit it fields only eight three-coach trains during rush hour instead of the contracted 20.
A sign of salvation to others
A faith that has nothing to say about life at its most primordial level of food, drink, land, shelter, security and sustainability cannot be life-giving at all. Mt. 25:34-36 commanded Jesus’ followers to compassionately care for, protect, and affirm the defenseless and the vulnerable – children, the poor, the elderly, the marginalized.
Our life in community as members of the Church established by Christ allows us to witness to the value of true brotherhood and sisterhood and to become a sign of salvation to our fellow human beings in the world.
It is a mistake to think that we may immerse ourselves in earthly activities as if the latter were foreign to our faith, and faith were nothing more than the fulfillment of acts of worship and observance of a few moral obligations.
One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and their day-to-day conduct. As far back as the Old Testament, the prophets vehemently denounced this scandal, and in the New Testament, Christ himself even more forcibly threatened it with severe punishment.
In the light of the Christian belief that the universe is moving towards fulfillment, we have to ask the larger questions about its direction and meaning, and also about ethical concerns relating to our responsibilities in being human to others and the planet.
Our involvement in the evolutionary process is made more urgent in the Philippines by a social situation that is characterized by widespread poverty and misery, unjust distribution of wealth, political oppression and increasing militarization.
These have historical and structural roots, both foreign and domestic, which contrive to have negative effects on the lives of the people, bringing about a situation of relative powerlessness among them.
Whatever may be the interpretation of the signs of the times in the Philippines by Christians and whatever may be the response, they should remain true to the conviction that the basis of their involvement is the Paschal mystery.
Solidarity with the poor, the deprived, the oppressed
The love of God extends to everyone and to the whole world. It reaches out beyond the community of faith, beyond the human community even, to embrace all things in the reconciliation of Christ (Col. 1:15-20). This gives meaning to all our struggles for justice, peace and the integrity of creation, enables us to hope against hope, and act with integrity, solidarity and creativity.
In the light of Christ’s second coming, the struggle for peace, justice and the integrity of creation is not only a task but gift as well. Because it is also a gift, a privilege to participate in the Christification of the world, we can have a preferential love for the poor without excluding others, struggle without hatred, denounce without condemning and act without violence.
To experience the presence of the risen Christ in this struggle for freedom and peace and justice in the building of the earth is to be a contemplative in a world of action, moving closer to the spark of fire, the glow, the leaping up of flame, that blaze that sets alive and consumes -Christ, the world’s heart afire, capable of being anywhere, and gradually spreading everywhere.
Pope Benedict XVI has come to write increasingly of the transformation of the earth as a Christian vocation. In Caritas in Veritate, he writes: “Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.” (par. 7). He voices trust in the graced capacity of human beings to transform the world and in so doing, make it a more fitting offering to God.
Pope Benedict reminds us that the effort to transform the world by our labor, our learning and our ingenuity contributes to Christ’s great offering of the world to the Father in the Spirit. When we receive communion, each tiny, broken piece of the Host might give us the power as a broken people to go out into the world, anonymous, insignificant, and transform it.
The whole of evolutionary history is empowered by the Risen Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, who is the source and goal of the whole emergent process of cosmic evolution. The power of the Risen Christ enables the world to become.
There is an affinity between the natural order and the spiritual order because in the Incarnation, the holy and triune God is revealed at the heart of all life on earth and in the whole universe. It is in the world that we encounter the Risen Christ.
The cosmos is the place of the trinitarian self-communication – Father, Son and Spirit are intimately involved in the whole of creation. The whole of creation will find ultimate redemption and total liberation in Christ (Rom. 8:21), and we have to help bring it about by proclaiming the gospel to every creature.