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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.
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]
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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
(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).
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
In order to sustain dialogue with Islam, suitable training is
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.
when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified
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”.
which genuinely respects
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.
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
We consider them as precious allies in the commitment to defending
human dignity, in building peaceful coexistence between peoples and in
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.