Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
How You Can Build
A Better World
One of the great challenges for Christians
is as old as our faith, but it takes on special urgency today as
we approach the Third Christian Millennium. How do we connect worship
on Sunday to work on Monday? How is the gospel proclaimed not only
in the pulpits of our parishes, but also in the everyday lives of
Christian people? How can we best carry the values of our faith
into family life, the marketplace and the public square?
In these reflections, we highlight one
essential dimension of the lay vocation which is sometimes overlooked
or neglected: the social mission of Christians in the world. Every
believer is called to serve "the least of these," to "hunger and
thirst for justice," to be a "peacemaker." Catholics are called
by God to protect human life, to promote human dignity, to defend
the poor and to seek the common good. This social mission of the
Church belongs to all of us. It is an essential part of what it
is to be a believer.
This social mission is advanced in many
waysby the prophetic teaching of our Holy Father; by the efforts
of our bishops' conference; and by many structures of charity and
justice within our community of faith. But the most common and,
in many ways, the most important Christian witness is often neither
very visible nor highly structured.
It is the sacrifice of parents trying
to raise children with concern for others; the service and creativity
of workers who do their best and reach out to those in need; the
struggle of business owners trying to reconcile the bottom line
and the needs of employees and customers; and the hard choices of
public officials who seek to protect the weak and pursue the common
good. The Church's social mission is advanced by teachers and scientists,
by family farmers and bankers, by salespersons and entertainers.
Working for justice in everyday life
is not easy. There are complex and sometimes difficult challenges
encountered by women and men as they try to live their faith in
the world. We applaud the efforts of all Catholics to live the gospel
by pursuing justice and peace in their everyday choices and commitments.
Let's make a better world
Catholicism does not call us to abandon
the world, but to help shape it. This does not mean leaving worldly
tasks and responsibilities, but transforming them. Catholics are
everywhere in this society. We are corporate executives and migrant
farmworkers, senators and welfare recipients, university presidents
and day-care workers, tradesmen and farmers, office and factory
workers, union leaders and small business owners. Our entire community
of faith must help Catholics to be instruments of God's grace and
creative power in business and politics, factories and offices,
in homes and schools and in all the events of daily life.
We begin at home. Our families
are the starting point and the center of a vocation for justice.
How we treat our parents, spouses and children is a reflection of
our commitment to Christ's love and justice. We demonstrate our
commitment to the gospel by how we spend our time and money, and
whether our family life includes an ethic of charity, service and
action for justice.
Workplace justice. Workers are
called to pursue justice. In the Catholic tradition, work is not
a burden. Work is a way of supporting our family, realizing our
dignity, promoting the common good and participating in God's creation.
Decisions made at work can make important contributions to an ethic
of justice. Catholics have the often difficult responsibility of
choosing between competing values in the workplace. This is a measure
of holiness. Associations that enable workers, owners or managers
to pursue justice often make the witness of the individual more
Business decisions. Owners, managers
and investors face important opportunities to seek justice and pursue
peace. Ethical responsibility is not just avoiding evil, but doing
right, especially for the weak and vulnerable. Decisions about the
use of capital have moral implications: Are they creating and preserving
quality jobs at living wages? Are they building up community through
the goods and services they provide? While economic returns are
important, they should not take precedence over the rights of workers
or protection of the environment.
Buying decisions. As consumers,
believers can promote social justice or injustice. In an affluent
culture that suggests that what we have defines who we are, we can
live more simply. When we purchase goods and services, we can choose
to support companies that defend human life, treat workers fairly,
protect creation and respect other basic moral values at home and
abroad. We can also make conscious efforts to consume less.
Stewardship. People who use their
skills and expertise for the common good, the service of others
and the protection of creation are good stewards of the gifts they
have been given. When we labor with honesty, serve those in need,
work for justice and contribute to charity, we use our talents to
show our loveand God's lovefor our brothers and sisters.
Political choices. As citizens
in the world's leading democracy, Catholics in the United States
have special responsibilities to protect human life and dignity
and to stand with those who are poor and vulnerable. We are also
called to welcome the stranger, to combat discrimination, to pursue
peace and to promote the common good. Catholic social teaching calls
us to practice civic virtues and offers us principles to shape participation
in public life. The voices and votes of lay Catholics are needed
to shape a society with greater respect for human life, economic
and environmental justice, cultural diversity and global solidarity.
Supporting the 'Salt of the Earth'
There is simply no substitute for Catholic
men and women carrying their faith into the world. Everyday discipleship
for justice and the Church's organized social ministry can reinforce
one another and help shape a more just society and more peaceful
Parishes are essential sources of support
and encouragement for Christian discipleship. At their best, parishes
help believers prepare and go forth to live the gospel in everything
The Sunday liturgy sends us forth to
renew the earth and build up God's kingdom of justice and peace.
We encourage our pastors and preachers to listen to their parishioners
on the challenges of their daily lives and help bring the insight
of the gospel and the principles of Catholic teaching to these experiences.
We affirm prayer and worship which help believers apply the gospel
to everyday situations.
Across the country, there are examples
of Catholic men and women gathering in small groups to examine the
moral dimensions of their lives and work. They enlarge their vision
beyond the immediate and the individual experience when they are
enabled to examine the structures and processes that shape social
Catholic schools and religious education
programs provide important lessons about living a life of justice
and compassion, and promoting participation in civic life. Many
parishes participate in legislative networks and community organizing
projects that involve parishioners in working for justice.
In thousands of parishes, other social
ministry efforts provide valuable opportunities to help believers
make choices about their time, money and talents that reflect the
justice demands of the gospel. These parishes are convinced that
the mystery of Jesus' life, death and resurrection unfolds within
We applaud these efforts and urge our
parishes to do even more. Our culture often suggests that religion
is a private matter, to be tolerated as long as it is detached from
our lives as workers and citizens. Catholic men and women look to
our parishes to find the support, tools and concrete help they need
to resist this tendency and instead proclaim Christ's love, justice
and peace in everything they do.
Catholics need to support one another
as we take up these difficult tasks, helping each other to have
the courage of our convictions, to stand up for what we believe
and to practice in our own lives what the Scriptures proclaim.
Pope John Paul II has declared 2000
a holy year of jubilee. For the Great Jubilee of 2000, our bishops'
conference is promoting a "Jubilee Pledge for Charity, Justice and
Peace" as one concrete way for believers to commit to renewed prayer,
reflection, service and action (see The Jubilee Pledge below).
A call to Jubilee justice
The beginning of the third millennium
is especially significant for followers of Jesus. The year 2000
is a holy year, a time of favor, a reminder that we live and work
in a time of special grace between the Incarnation of Jesus and
his Second Coming. What does the Jubilee mean for us?
The land belongs to God. We are stewards.
The jubilee was an ideal, a reminder that Yahweh, the creator of
all, was the true owner of creation and that those who live in a
covenant relationship with Yahweh must also seek right and just
relationships with all people. The pious Israelite knew that the
land was a gift from God. The land and all it signifiedwork,
material goods, financial security, the practices of economic and
everyday lifewere to be understood within the context of one's
relationship with God.
All gifts of creation, including personal
talents and abilities, first of all belong to God. The devout Israelite
was a steward of God's goods. Natural resources and human talents
were to serve all with a particular concern for the poor and weak.
A time to restore freedom and cancel
debts. The "year of the Lord's favor" was a time to proclaim
"liberty in the land for all" (Lv. 25:10), to "bring good news to
the poor" and "let the oppressed go free" (Is. 61). It was a time
to restore freedom and justice among people, to reestablish relationships
of equality, remedy the conditions that kept people oppressed (Is.
61), to cancel debts (Dt. 15).
The jubilee was intended to relieve
the burdens of the weak and give people an opportunity to start
anew. There was a clear social message in the jubilee. The jubilee
year was an invitation for people to see their lives from a divine
perspective: All that they were and all they did should be in accord
with God's will for building a community of justice, mercy, love
Like the ancient Israelites in their
time, Catholic laypersons today ought to see the coming Jubilee
as a call to renewed practice of charity, pursuit of justice, welcome
to the stranger and new efforts to permit all to participate in
the life of the community.
Next: Being Truly Catholic Today (by
Archbishop Rembert Weakland, O.S.B.)
As disciples of Jesus in the new
millennium, I/we pledge to:
This document is adapted from Everyday Christianity: To Hunger
and Thirst for Justice, copyright 1998, and The Jubilee Pledge,
copyright 1998, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Provided by Catholic News Service. Used with permission.