Paschal Reflections on Social Justice

March 29, 2016

Catholic Social Teaching Corner: Paschal Reflections on Social Justice The themes of the Church’s social teaching are wide ranging – the dignity of all human life first of all, justice for the poor, concern for the environment, peace in the world, and so on. These are deeply rooted in Catholic Tradition and spring from the message of salvation that we celebrate in the Paschal Triduum. One then might add a different facet to the commemoration of the Easter mysteries by considering how their message sheds light on the Church’s great social mission. A theme of Holy Thursday is service. The Gospel passage and attendant ritual of the washing of the feet convey the Lord’s wish that His disciples be servants. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:15) Pope Francis has made this rite so vivid in recent years by washing the feet of refugees and juvenile delinquents. It is a service that is fulfilled in the Communion of the Eucharist and Divine Friendship. Jesus calls His disciples friends (John 15:13-15), as He offers them His very body. Dominicans can lift up the poor by preaching and service and thence help expand what Fr. Bruno Cadoré, the Master of the Order, calls the “tent of friendship with God.” On Good Friday, Jesus takes on the suffering of the world. He is in solidarity with all the victims of injustice – those who suffer persecution for their faith, the innocent victims of war and power politics, the unborn who are lost to a culture of convenience and waste, all those whose blood cries out. We know that, in Christ, there is meaning and indeed power in their travails. We see Jesus crucified when we look at the lowly and exploited. We are called to minister like Veronica who wiped His face. Even in the tomb on Holy Saturday, Jesus is one with those who die forgotten and abused. Easter is celebrated first at the Great Vigil, which begins with a light kindled in the night. In a world darkened by war and hatred, the Church holds up that light for all the oppressed and lowly. Christians know that, just as at the vigil, the light grows ever brighter into the blazing light of redemption. The Resurrection happens now, not only for individual souls who receive His baptism, but for communities, societies and nations into whom His Kingdom is planted. Despite all the bad news, the ultimate message is one of good news. The springtime setting of Easter too, promises replenishment and renewal for the the earth, our common home. In the Resurrection life conquers death. Every Easter we are reminded that the whole earth is wiped clean by the power of the Resurrection. All the drudgery and foolishness, all the darkness and fear are overcome by the searingly powerful light that comes from the tomb. It is a power that is greater than all the sin and sadness in the world. May this Easter bring renewal and salvation to each individually and to all the world. – Fr. Francis Belanger, O.P.

Image: Lawrence Lew, O.P., Detail from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris

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