By the time most of you will have read this, the Jubilee Year of Mercy will have come to an end and the 2016 Presidential Election will be over. Now what? Where do we go from here? What is next?
What a wonderful Jubilee of Mercy it has been. I recall the words of Pope Francis when he first informed the world of the Year of Mercy: “It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to be ever more effective.” It is my hope and prayer that the Holy Father’s wish has become a reality all across the world. It is the experience of mercy, both received and given away, that will bring true peace and harmony. So where do we go from here as the Jubilee of Mercy ends?
This Jubilee has raised awareness for us of mercy being at the heart of the church’s mission. Proclaiming and living the mercy of God is at the heart of the church’s identity and where she is most credible and authentic. Therefore, though the official Jubilee of Mercy has ended, the clarion call to continue the works of mercy continues because it is at the heart of Catholic identity. This is the reason why both mercy and solidarity were specifically included as core values in the Diocesan Priority Plan. We will always be called to “be merciful, just as our Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). As I wrote in Through Him, With Him, and In Him,’ “To be in solidarity with others is to see them as God sees them, to love them as God loves them, and to sacrifice for them as Christ has sacrificed for them. United together, we are the body of Christ. Every time we neglect others in the body, the whole body suffers (cf. 1 Cor 12:26).
When we live in solidarity and charity, (and share mercy) the Body of Christ is built up, there is communion, and the kingdom of God is made manifest.” Continuing to seek ways in which these values are lived out among us allows us to more fully embrace our true identity.
As I write this monthly column the presidential election is pending and I find myself still quite concerned about our country regardless of which candidate wins. The threats to human life and religious liberty remain, here and around the world. The threats to traditional marriage and family values are on the rise. The number of people living in poverty remains. Immigration issues, healthcare issues, the national debt issue all remain. The threat of violence from terrorism remains. The rise of secularism continues. A new face in the White House doesn’t change these realities.
So where do we go from here? Recent polls show that more than 70 percent of the people surveyed believe our nation is on the wrong track. How do we get the nation back on the right track? What is the right track? There are probably as many different answers as the number of people polled. I would propose that the right track is a Catholic world view. What is it?
The world view when this country was founded was from Judeo-Christian values brought from a Christian Europe. A world view is a lens through which we look at everything in life. It informs our laws and policies. It helps determine how we think and act in all situations and circumstances. An individual may not even be aware of having a world view.
The Catholic world view is the view of the world and our response to it that has been given to us by Jesus Christ through his church. It is not something man-made, but given to us by God — revealed to us. The Catholic world view has its foundation in the Biblical world view — the world seen through the lens of divine revelation, the divine and living Word of God.
Many people today have a world view that is informed by things other than our Catholic faith, i.e. by secularism, by a culture that is profoundly un-Christian and becoming even anti-Christian. Intentionally or unintentionally, many Catholics have rejected the world view given to us by God’s revelation.
Catholics make up the largest Christian denomination in the world. Therefore, one would think that Catholics in numbers could have a profound impact in helping to shape and transform our culture. There would be great power to change the world if Catholics wholeheartedly embraced the revelation given us by Christ in his church.
Dr. Ralph Martin in a talk entitled “The Attack on Religious Liberty and the Catholic Church: The Spiritual Dynamics and Our Role” quoted noted scripture scholar Father Francis Martin: “The root sin of the world is the refusal to believe in Jesus and the place he holds next to the Father as the revelation of the Father. The root sin is to reject the truth.” And then he quoted John 3:36, Whoever believes in the son has eternal life. Whoever disobeys the son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath. The wrath of God is not God getting angry at people, but is our experience of God’s holiness when we’re rejecting it. It’s the anguish of soul and the darkness of mind that comes when we say no to the testimony that God is giving to his Son. This is perhaps the situation in our world today.
We need a Catholic world view if we are to live as Jesus’ disciples and become the people whom God created us to be, our true authentic selves. This call leads to seeking our personal vocation and mission in and for the world. We can’t transform the culture if we’ve accepted the secular world’s distorted world view. Unless we receive and accept all that has been given us through the church, we cannot be powerful witnesses in the world. There is no doctrine revealed that is not part of the Gospel message. We have a duty to live it all and share it.
Many Catholics received religious formation in years past but have gone no further in the faith formation process and therefore have an elementary understanding and knowledge of the Catholic faith. This is why Forming Disciples is our second pastoral priority. As written in the Diocesan Pastoral Priority Plan: “We are called to a deep union with Christ — a relationship of love. We will work together for formation in the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral areas. This formation will empower us to grow as faithful stewards of God’s gifts, living a Catholic way of life through hospitality, faith and discipleship.”
According to the Priority Plan, renewed efforts in religious formation for all ages lay a firm foundation for Catholics to grow in their union with Christ, to obtain adequate knowledge of the Catholic world view and to develop the necessary skills to be able to carry on the work of Christ in the world, each in one’s own way.
Pope Francis in the “Joy of the Gospel” wrote: “To believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone means realizing that he seeks to penetrate every human situation and all social bonds: ‘The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, even the most complex and inscrutable.’ Evangelization is meant to cooperate with this liberating work of the Spirit.”
Evangelization is the duty and responsibility of all baptized Catholics. Evangelization shares the Catholic world view and will lead others to true faith, living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church rather than under the deceitfulness of the Evil One. So, that’s where we go from here!