Our Lord's words from Matthew 26: 39 are what we must live by!
In his column today, Pat Ludwa questions the procedures some Confirmation and CCD programs follow in placing so much emphasis on "social work" in preparation for the sacraments without placing the emphasis on the "why" Jesus calls us to help our neighbor. Too much importance is placed on the exterior work - for show and points in the program without true sincerity from the heart. Too often, through liberal educators and organizers, they are forced into helping others for all the wrong reasons. They tend to look down on anyone who is not constantly involved in this parish program or that social activity all in the name of social justice or, as the modernists like to call it: "peace and justice." The Vatican calls it "Justice and Peace" with a special Curia agency just for that. The problem is many of these liberal parish programs have no intention of following the Holy See's directives and, through that stubbornness to ram through their own agenda, are not doing it for the least of Christ's brethren. For his column today, Let's take the social out of 'social justice!', see VIEW FROM THE PEW
No doubt, working for social justice or in some social welfare capacity is 'part' of what being a Catholic means. After all, Christ said, "Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee, or thirsty and give Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome Thee, or naked and clothe Thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:34-40) Pretty clear teaching, but notice, the people here don't know, exactly, that they did this!
Consider what the Apostle James wrote: "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:14-17). So obviously, social concerns are a part of what being a Catholic is. In fact, this is the 'battle' that has separated Catholics and Protestants for centuries, which is most important, faith or works? The recent agreement between a synod of the Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church illustrates the truth. Without faith, works are nothing, without works, faith is nothing. "What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children," (Matthew 7:9-11).
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Even the unrighteous and evil do good works for people. The difference is who do they do it for? What is the difference, for example, between what Mother Teresa did and what people like Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and Donald Trump do? Bill Gates and the others do so for the praise of men, and generally for an agenda. It serves their purpose, their goals, to do these things. They hire accountants to figure out how much money they can give to a 'cause'. Did Mother Teresa do that? Did she advertise her works? Did she do it because she wanted notoriety? Because it was the 'Catholic' thing to do?
"Then He will say to those at His left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:41-46).
Isn't it possible that these did give to the poor but did not do it in faith? They fed the poor, but didn't see Christ, only their own self esteem, etc. No doubt many don't do any of these things, but many more do them but not for the reason they should. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets'" (Matthew 22: 36-40).
The first command is for us to love God with our whole being, that is faith, and from that comes the love of neighbor? How is this possible? Mother Teresa didn't go through the streets of Calcutta looking to help the poor and dying because she wanted fame, but because she loved God. And if she loves God, then all men and women are her brothers and sisters. Who among us, if we saw our brothers, sisters, mothers or fathers in need, wouldn't do all we could to help? Through Christ we are brothers and sisters, we are family. So it's natural for the Catholic to want to do all they could to help in any way they can. Even when things become hard, the thought of stopping is unthinkable.
But when Christ is not the focus of our love, the reason for our works of social justice, then when things become difficult, we give up. This is human nature. Regardless of how strongly we feel about something, we sooner or later become bored, and leave it. Consider the child whose eyes gleam with the thought of a new, popular toy, and receiving it, plays with it for the day. Then, becoming bored with it, leave it in the dust pile of their room. Or when something happens that we didn't expect, we leave it behind, or get angry about it.
I recall hearing of a young novice to an Order of Sisters who had dreams of going to Africa to work in the missions. Outwardly, it appeared that she was saying "Here I am Lord, do with me as You will." But after she took her final vows, she was assigned to an elementary school in the suburbs. She was angry about it, feeling that the Church had robbed her of her dream, that the Church had thwarted the will of God for her. But was it God's will or her own? Wasn't she then really saying, "Here I am Lord, do with me as I will."? There were children in that school that needed 'evangelization' as much, maybe more so, as those in Africa. "And going a little farther He fell on his face and prayed, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt'" (Matthew 26:39).
I add this because a lot of what passes for 'Catholic social justice', isn't. Rather than teaching children to love and serve the Lord with their whole heart, mind, body and soul, we see many of our children being taught that social activism is the way of God. Then, it no longer becomes a matter of feeding the hungry, or visiting the sick or imprisoned, but imposing something on someone. We see abortion and contraception as issues of social justice. That to teach that abortions are artificial contraception is wrong is a 'crime against humanity'. We hear that the Church has to ordain women and make homosexual sex acceptable out of 'fairness.' We may even hear that it's God's will to rob the rich of their wealth and redistribute it to the poor. Again, we have to ask, are they truly saying, "Here I am Lord, do with me as You will." Or are they actually saying "Here I am Lord, do with me as I will." We hear, as Hitler said, that the will of the people is the will of God. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets'" (Matthew 22: 36-40).
Can we actually say we love God when, in fact, we make the second great commandment the first? One can't teach social justice without first teaching the love of God! Because without the love of God, we won't get social justice. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:37-39).
It might seem 'fair' to place the wants and desires of others before God. It may garner us untold praise from them. But it won't garner any praise from God.
"So every one who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father Who is in Heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father Who is in Heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).
"Then Jesus told His disciples, 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?'" (Matthew 16: 24-26).
Love of God means sacrifice. The mother or the father who forgoes a career to stay at home to care for and teach their children are no less acting on social issues than those who attend pro-life or liturgical meetings. They sacrifice a larger home, better and nicer cars, maybe even their reputation, by denying themselves and embracing what the world sees as a demeaning job. This is not an admonition against those who, due to financial necessity, are forced to have both parents work, even at multiple jobs. But here we see what true social justice would be, to work for a way so that at least one can stay home and raise their children. Is it possible that the rise in teenage crime, violence and pregnancy is due to the fact that there is no one there at home for them? Isn't possible, even probable, that, coming home to an empty house, they may feel that the love their parents have for them is just as empty?
"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
If we do not teach our children the love of God, how can they come to a true love of their fellow man? We can force them to take part in all sorts of social activities, but unless they first come to know and love God, they are simply going through the motions at best. And trying to make their will God's will at the worst.
Here is the perfect example of how the love of God translates to the love of neighbor. "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).
Out of love for the Father, our Lord emptied Himself and became a man, sharing our pains, hunger, anxieties, etc. He taught us about the love of God out of His love for the Father. He healed the blind, the sick, the lame, out of love for the Father, and He died on the cross out of love for the Father. His love for us, which is why He did all of this, comes directly from His love of the Father. He never said, "I think it would be better if I did it this way." Or "It would be more fair to do it this way." Or "It would be easier if I did it this way." He only said, "not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39).
Pax Christi, Pat
Today, one week from Holy Thursday, we bring you the final of three parts of the Holy Father's special LETTER TO PRIESTS for Holy Thursday 2000. He completed this touching letter, signing it in ceremonies during celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on Thursday morning, March 23rd during his historic "Jubilee Journey" in search of Salvation History. In this third part, the Vicar of Christ encourages Christ's priests throughout the world to embrace the Eucharist and draw upon this august Sacramental Mystery as Jesus intends through a deeper reverence and adoration for the Blessed Sacrament and instilling this same "passion for Christ" in the Tabernacle among their flocks everywhere. See THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS
"Do this in memory of Me" (Luke 22:19): although addressed to the whole Church, the words of Christ are entrusted as a particular task to those who carry on the ministry of the first Apostles. It is to them that Jesus hands on the action which He has just performed changing bread into His Body and wine into His Blood - the action in which He appears as Priest and Victim. It is the will of Christ that henceforth His action should also become sacramentally the action of the Church through the hands of priests. In saying "Do this," He refers not only to the action, but also to the one who is called to act; in other words, He institutes the ministerial priesthood, which thus becomes one of the essential elements of the Church.
11. This action is to be done "in His memory": these words are important. The Eucharistic action celebrated by priests will make present in every Christian generation, in every corner of the earth, the work accomplished by Christ. Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, the bloody sacrifice of Calvary will be made present in an unbloody manner; there Christ Himself, the Redeemer of the world, will be present.
"Do this in memory of Me." Hearing these words once again within the walls of the Upper Room, it is natural to try to imagine what Christ felt. These were the dramatic hours which preceded the Passion. The Evangelist John evokes the intensity of the Master's words as He prepares the Apostles for His departure. What sadness was in their eyes: "Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts" (John 16:6). But Jesus reassures them: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18). Although the Paschal Mystery will take Him from their sight, He will be more present than ever in their life, "always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
13. Two thousand years after the birth of Christ, in this Jubilee Year, we especially need to remember and ponder the truth of what we might call His "Eucharistic birth." The Upper Room is the place of this "birth." Here began a new presence of Christ for the world, a presence which constantly occurs wherever the Eucharist is celebrated and a priest lends his voice to Christ, repeating the sacred words of institution.
This Eucharistic presence has accompanied the two thousand years of the Church's history, and it will do so until the end of time. For us it is both a joy and a source of responsibility to be so closely linked to this mystery. Today we want to become more deeply aware of this presence, our hearts filled with wonder and gratitude, and in this spirit to enter the Easter Triduum of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.
Let us remain faithful to what the Upper Room "hands on" to us, to the great gift of Holy Thursday. May we always celebrate the Holy Eucharist with fervor. May we dwell long and often in adoration before Christ in the Eucharist. May we sit at the "school" of the Eucharist. Through the centuries, countless priests have found in the Eucharist the consolation promised by Jesus on the evening of the Last Supper, the secret to overcoming their solitude, the strength to bear their sufferings, the nourishment to make a new beginning after every discouragement, and the inner energy to bolster their decision to remain faithful. The witness which we give to the People of God in celebrating the Eucharist depends in large part upon our own personal relationship with the Eucharist.
15. Let us rediscover our priesthood in the light of the Eucharist! Let us help our communities to rediscover this treasure in the daily celebration of Holy Mass, and especially in the more solemn Sunday assembly. Through your apostolic labors, may love for Christ present in the Eucharist grow stronger. This is a particularly important goal in this Jubilee Year. I think of the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Rome from 18-25 June, which has as its theme Jesus Christ, the one Savior of the World, Bread for our Life. It will be a highlight of the Great Jubilee, which is meant to be "an intensely Eucharistic year" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 55). The Congress will emphasize the profound link between the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Christ's Real Presence.
From the Upper Room, I embrace you in the Eucharist. May the image of Christ surrounded by His own at the Last Supper fill each of us with a vibrant sense of brotherhood and communion. Great painters have employed their finest gifts in depicting the face of Christ among His Apostles in the scene of the Last Supper: how can we forget Leonardo's masterpiece? But only the Saints, by the intensity of their love, can enter the depths of this mystery, leaning their head, as it were, like John, on the Lord's breast (cf. John 13:25). Here in fact we come to the height of love: "having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end."
16. I would like to conclude these thoughts, which I affectionately entrust to your meditation, with the words of an ancient prayer:
Lord Almighty, You created the universe
for the glory of Your name;
You gave men food and drink
to strengthen them,
that they might give You thanks;
but to us You have given
spiritual food and drink,
and eternal life through Your Son...
Glory to You through the ages!"
(Didache 9:3-4; 10:3-4).
From the Upper Room, dear brother priests, I embrace all of you in spirit and I cordially impart my blessing.
From Jerusalem, 23 March 2000.