St Clement's, Ewell

  • 307 Kingston Road
  • Ewell
  • Surrey
  • KT19 0BW

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The Social Dimension of Evangelisation 


Pope Francis recognises that evangelisation addresses all aspects

of the individual and the society in which they live. (176)

To evangelise is to make the kingdom of God present in our world.

In this chapter he looks at the social dimension

seen as an integral part of the mission of evangelisation.



I. COMMUNAL AND SOCIETAL REPERCUSSIONS OF THE KERYGMA

                                                                                                     [The First Proclamation]


Belief in

  • God as Father implies recognition of the (infinite) dignity of all human beings.

  • Jesus as Son of God, as God incarnate, implies a social dimension for redemption.

  • the Holy Spirit at work in everyone is to allow him into every human situation and all social bonds.

The Trinity is essentially a relationship and sets a pattern for human interaction in community: a pattern of interdependence.


(179) … God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the

prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: “As you did it to one of

these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). The

way we treat others has a transcendent dimension: “The measure you

give will be the measure you get” (Mt 7:2).

Since 'loving neighbour' is an essential individual response, so ...(179) “the service

of charity is also a constituent element of the Church’s mission and an

indispensable expression of her very being”.


The kingdom and its challenge

Scripture makes it clear, that whilst a personal relationship with God is essential

[necessary], it is not enough [sufficient]. We are involved in building the Kingdom,

of God, within our world. Inevitably what we say and do must have an impact on our

society. Evangelisation must have an impact at all levels in the kingdom, the creation

in which we live.

(181)... “the creation” refers to every aspect of human life; consequently,

“the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal

destination. Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of

existence, all individuals, all areas of community life, and all peoples”.



The Church’s teaching on social questions

Religion in its broadest understanding is intrinsically social. The response to

the Gospel call is not only to seek for next worldly well being, but here and now to

build communities of love.

Our desire to change the world is born of real faith. It manifests itself in practical

working for justice and peace for all mankind. We share the earth as a common home

where all of us are brothers and sisters.

Today we recognise that neither the Pope nor the Church has all the answers to

social questions, despite its extensive work on social issues. Local communities are

best placed to analyse their own situations.

Pope Francis restricts himself to commenting on two areas of concern.

The Poor in Society and Peace & Social Dialogue


II. THE INCLUSION OF THE POOR IN SOCIETY


We are concerned for the development of the Poor quite simply

because we believe in Christ, who himself became poor.



In union with God, we hear a plea

The scriptures make it clear that we have to take responsibility for the poor: for their

liberation and development. (Ex3:7-8,10, Jg 3:15, Dt 15:9, Sir 4:6, 1Jn 3:17,Jam 5:4)

This is an activity for all of us. It is a response to the liberating action of grace in each

of us.

Solidarity is implicit in Jesus' instruction: (188) “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37): it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter.

Solidarity is more than a few good works (188) ...“It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.

The solidarity mindset sees private ownership of goods as a necessity to ensure that

they can be protected and increased to better serve the common good. (189).. for

this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor

what belongs to them.

Changing structures must go hand in hand with changes in attitudes.

Our “rights” only make sense in the context are our understanding that planet earth

belongs to all its inhabitants and is for the good of them all.


All Christians are called to hear the cry of the poor. We know there is enough food for

everyone. But inefficient distribution, corrupt practices and wastefulness ensure that

many go hungry. We have to address the situation.

Beyond the basic of food, we look to ensure that everyone has education, health care

and employment, consistent with their dignity as human beings.



Fidelity to the Gospel, lest we run in vain

Scripture reminds us to be deeply moved by the suffering of others.: to the extent of

being merciful ourselves, even at personal cost . (193)... “Blessed are the

merciful, because they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). The apostle

James teaches that our mercy to others will vindicate us on the day of

God’s judgement: “So speak and so act as those who are to be

judged under the law of liberty. For judgement is without mercy to

one who has shown no mercy, yet mercy triumphs over

judgement” (Jas 2:12-13).


There is no need to complicate this message.

(194). This is especially the case with those biblical exhortations which

summon us so forcefully to brotherly love, to humble and generous

service, to justice and mercy towards the poor.

The early Church used good treatment of the poor as a criterion for the authentic faith of the local community (Gal2:10)

If we allow ourselves to be hard hearted towards the poor, we attract an alienation at every level and court breakdown in our society.



The special place of the poor in God’s people

When we look at the history of redemption it is marked by the presence of the poor.

(197) Salvation came to us from the “yes” uttered by a lowly maiden from a small town on the fringes of a great empire.

The Saviour was born in a manger, in the midst of animals,
like children of 
 poor families;
he was presented at the Temple along with two turtle-
doves,
the offering made by those who could not afford a lamb (cf. Lk
2:24; Lev 5:7);
he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked
with his own hands to earn his bread.

When he began to preach the Kingdom, crowds of the dispossessed followed him, illustrating his words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18).


(198) This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor.

They have much to teach us.

Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelised by them....

We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.

This is why we must not treat them as causes or campaigns to be fought for, but as

fellow human beings who can be our friends and touch our hearts and souls.

Pope Francis tellingly says that as a Church our greatest failing is in the pastoral care

we give to the poor. We have to do better.

Moreover we cannot pretend that this work is somehow not part of our overall gospel

calling. We simply have to get involved, wherever and whoever we are in the Church.



The economy and the distribution of income

We have to recognise and eliminate the structural causes of poverty in our economic

systems. If not, the poor will remain enslaved and further violence and war will follow.

(202) Inequality is the root of social ills.

We cannot allow economic systems to operate as if they are independent of the

dignity and well being of each human person. Only a system bent on profit above all

else would find the question of ethics irksome, or balk at the idea of justice for all as a

response to God.

Most proponents of free market ideas (the unseen hand) ignore the imperfections that exist in most markets. We need political systems which set the parameters for any market mechanisms.

Pope Francis prays for politicians who are deeply concerned to root out the evils in our world. Whose actions are rooted in charity(love) toward all people. A noble calling.

In our world, where globalisation is increasingly obvious, we need an efficient way of achieving a fitting management of our common home whilst recognising the sovereignty/autonomy of each nation.


All Church communities have a responsibility to involve creatively in an effective outreach to all people, especially the poor.

Pope Francis says he means to offend no one. He is not a foe but a partner in this endeavour.



Concern for the vulnerable

We must follow the example of Christ who cared for the vulnerable of his day.

Our vulnerable (210) are ...the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned …. Migrants present a particular challenge for me, since I am the pastor of a Church without frontiers...

Not to mention the victims of human trafficking, the young exploited for sex or money.

(211) Let us not look the other way....The issue involves everyone!.... many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.


Then there are women virtually powerless in the face of mistreatment and violence.

(213) Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us.... They are denied human dignity and treated as a commodity. The Church's teaching …. involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.

Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights...

(214)...It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.

However, we have to do better to accompany women with difficult or unwanted pregnancies, offering concrete hopeful outcomes.


Finally we cannot lose sight of the wider world which we inhabit. We are not only

beneficiaries but stewards of our environment. If we treat it with violence and

indifference seeking only short term gain, then we are in danger of destroying our

ecosystems.

(216) Small yet strong in the love of God, like Saint Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples.



III. THE COMMON GOOD AND PEACE IN SOCIETY


We have to distinguish real and lasting peace from the illusory absence of violence

consequent on domination or pacification by one part of society over another. The

absence of real peace has its causes in skewed social structures, the inequitable

distribution of wealth and failure to recognise human rights. Real peace will follow

only when those whose power and privilege perpetuate the problem are themselves

willing to work for the common good.

(219). Nor is peace “simply the absence of war fare, based on a precarious balance of power;...

Peace has to be built generation by generation, nation by nation as people embrace

the social dimension of their lives and act as committed and responsible citizens.

(220) ...It is an ongoing process...: a slow and arduous effort calling for a desire for integration and a willingness to achieve this through the growth of a peaceful and multifaceted culture of encounter.

Pope Francis identifies his four principles on which the building of a people of peace depend. (221) I do so out of the conviction that their application can be a genuine path to peace within each nation and in the entire world.

These (challenging) principles are set out below.



P1 Time is greater than space

An ongoing tension exists between “fullness” (identified with time) and

“limitation” (identified with space).

(222) Broadly speaking, “time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us,
while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure.

People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future …

We are being asked to work with confidence towards long term goals, without being

preoccupied with short term results. This short termism can be observed in some

socio political activity where (223)... spaces and power are preferred to time and processes.....What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events.

So for instance we must get started with a plan to deal with our out of balance

distribution of goods: but we must be convinced

that it is an achievable long term goal.

The concern to retain political power often focuses efforts on short term gains, which

can impede long term human development.


This approach also applies to evangelisation. (225)... which calls for attention to the bigger picture, openness to suitable processes and concern for the long run.



P2 Unity prevails over conflict

Conflict (among nations and peoples) can not be ignored or concealed, but it can be

faced because underlying all conflict is a deeper sense of unity.

Some see conflict and ignore it. Others are overcome by it. Better is to face conflict,

confident to resolve it and (227)... make it a link in the chain of a new process. “Blessed are the peacemakers!” (Mt 5:9).

Building a better society. (228)...can only be achieved by those great persons who are willing to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity.

They must hold fast to this principle, namely, that unity is greater than conflict,

so that resolution respects all parties.

The idea of an underlying unity of mankind is expressed in the scriptures and (229) This principle, drawn from the Gospel, reminds us that Christ has made all things one in himself: heaven and earth, God and man, time and eternity, flesh and spirit, person and society.

(230) The message of peace is not about a negotiated settlement but rather the conviction that the unity brought by the Spirit can harmonize every diversity.



P3 Realities are more important than ideas

(231) Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out.

A deceptively simple claim focuses on the tension between “reality” and “idea”,

the proposition that ideas are always developing, and the need for dialogue

....lest ideas become detached from realities.

We cannot allow ideas and associated words, images and rhetoric

to deflect us from action.

We have to insist that logic is placed at the service of the community and reflects the

realities that the community recognises.

This principle is derived from our understanding of incarnation. The Word (Jesus

Christ) has become flesh and his Word (the Word of God) is to be put into practice.

Only by putting the word into action, doing justice and love, can we find a life giving

involvement in salvation history.



P4 The whole is greater than the part

Today more than ever we are aware of globalisation, and recognise tensions between

the global and the local. (234) We need to pay attention to the global so as to

avoid narrowness and banality. Yet we also need to look to the local, which

keeps our feet on the ground.

Pope Francis invites us to engage in our local situations, without being preoccupied

by them, whilst always broadening our horizons towards the common/greater good.

In effect he says this is not a zero sum game.[More a win - win situation]  In bringing

our God-given gifts to bear, the outcomes are greater than we could expect,

benefiting all. (235)... The global need not stifle, nor the particular prove

barren.

In working towards the common/greater good there is a place for everyone.

And each person has their unique contribution to make. The Gospel message is not

only for all peoples of all cultures, it sees them as being one in Christ. Whatever, the

divergences at any moment, the hope proposed is that all peoples will one day be

gathered together (237) ... at table in God’s kingdom.




IV. SOCIAL DIALOGUE AS A CONTRIBUTION TO PEACE


Pope Francis recognises the importance of dialogue if the Church is to be effective

in speaking about faith. Three areas stand out.

  • Dialogue with the various governments

  • Dialogue with society, including cultures and sciences

  • Dialogue with other believers who are not catholic


(239) The Church proclaims “the Gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15).

Accordingly she wishes to take part in the building of a consensus

and sees that this is a matter of urgency for all humanity.

The State has a key role in safeguarding peace, via promoting the common good.

In joining dialogue with the State, the Church recognises that she does not have all

the answers, and seeks an effective partnership.



Dialogue between faith, reason and science

The Church's approach to faith, reason and science is that all come ultimately from

God. They can not then be a source of conflict. She thus seeks to build a synthesis

drawing on the competence of each of the disciplines. This is the basis of the

dialogue she seeks to undertake.

In fact the Church actually applauds the advance of science, seeing its potential to

realize humanity's God given potential.



Ecumenical dialogue

Again, the Church is committed to ecumenical dialogue. The impact of Christians on

the world – the credibility of the Christian message - would be so much greater

(244) We must never for get that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one

another.

Ecumenism is in its own right part of the pathway to peace.

The work of evangelisation is directly impeded by the scandalous divisions among

Christians. We have to recognise how much we have in common and be willing to

learn from each other. (246) If we concentrate on the convictions we

share, and if we keep in mind the principle of the hierarchy of truths,

we will be able to progress decidedly towards common expressions of

proclamation, service and witness.

We can safely allow the Holy Spirit to guide us to a fuller expression of truth and

goodness.



Relations with Judaism

(247) We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant

with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are

irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). 

 
For Christians the Jewish faith is not a foreign religion.

With them we share

  • a belief in one God, who acts in history

  • a belief in one God who reveals himself in the word

  • part of our scriptures


We deeply regret the terrible persecutions they have endured, especially those at the

hands of Christians. We should never forget that Jesus chose to be born as a Jew.

And whilst we proclaim Jesus as Messiah, there are still many values, beliefs and

ethical convictions that we share.



Inter religious dialogue

Achieving peace in the world relies on a dialogue with the followers of non Christian

religions. This dialogue reflecting openness in truth and love is (250)

... a matter of “being open to them, sharing their joys and sorrows”.

(251) In this dialogue, ever friendly and sincere,... the parties must remain

steadfast in their convictions and clear in their identity while at the same time

being “open to understanding those of the other party” and “knowing that

dialogue can enrich each side”.

Along this path lies the achievement of peace and harmony.

Evangelisation and inter religious dialogue, far from being opposed,

mutually support and nourish one another.

As followers of Islam have spread worldwide, our relationship with them has taken on

great importance.
(
252)...
We must never forget that they “profess to hold

the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful

God, who will judge humanity on the last day”.

As well as sharing faith in one God, we share many elements of our ethics.

(253) In order to sustain dialogue with Islam, suitable training is essential

for all involved, not only so that they can be solidly and joyfully grounded

in their own identity, but so that they can also acknowledge the values of

others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light

on shared beliefs.

We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim

immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be

received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition.

A proper reading of the Gospels and the Koran, despite our falling short of their

ideals, leaves us opposed to every form of violence.

Non-Christians, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified by

the grace of God”.

(254)... God’s working in them ... bring[s] others to a communitarian experience of

journeying towards God
. …...The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms

of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace

and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over

many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs.



Social dialogue in a context of religious freedom

We emphasise (255).... the importance of respect for religious freedom,

viewed as a fundamental human right.

This includes “the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be

true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public”.

We applaud the pluralism which genuinely respects differences. (255)

The respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be

arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing

majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions...

be they of church, synagogue or mosque.


(256) When considering the effect of religion on public life,...we should avoid

…. crude and superficial generalizations in speaking of the shortcomings of

religion,.... not all believers – or religious leaders – are the same.

We should be wary of the mind set that dismisses any thinking or writing that is not

secular! Religious writings have a history of opening new horizons, stimulating

thought and expanding the mind and heart.

(257) ..., we also feel close to those who do not consider themselves part

of any religious tradition, yet sincerely seek the truth, goodness and

beauty......

We consider them as precious allies in the commitment to defending

human dignity, in building peaceful coexistence between peoples and in

protecting creation.

Ongoing dialogue with them about fundamental issues (257)
... of ethics, art and science, and about the search for transcendence...
is a path to peace in our troubled world
.


(258) Starting from certain social issues of great importance for the

future of humanity, I have tried to make explicit once again the

inescapable social dimension of the Gospel message and to

encourage all Christians to demonstrate it

by their words, attitudes and deeds.