One Last New Year’s Resolution

February 6, 2019

Fr. Francis Belanger, O.P., is the Pastor of SS. Philip and James University Parish in Baltimore, MD and the Promoter of Catholic Social Teaching for the Province of St. Joseph. The essay below is the latest in his series of essays on Catholic Social Teaching.

As January winds to a close, perhaps it is appropriate to consider one last New Year’s resolution. Pope Francis, as usual, released a message for the World Day of Peace on January 1st. It might be called a primer on Christian public service. Hearing his words in the whole context of Catholic Social Teaching, Dominicans can take this message as an inspiration to share the good news of faith-filled citizenship to our hearers in the year of our Lord, 2019.

Reflecting on the Gospel command to wish “Peace to this house” (Luke 10:5), the Pope expounds that the “house” is “every family, community, country and continent” in addition to “each individual person…” and indeed our “common home”, planet Earth. Preachers, when they touch on social and political matters, have the wonderful opportunity of spurring the faithful to be aware of God’s universal love. Citizens who hear us should be challenged to build a society in which virtue is rewarded and basic goods and human rights are made available to all.

There is much that is vexing in our political landscape. Grotesque laws in violation of human life are being passed or proposed. There seems a demonization of desperate migrants and the poor. Powerful interests and politicians deny the seemingly irrefutable scientific evidence of climate change out of an idolatry of profit. Subjectivism in regard to gender and sexuality has become dogma. Yet the Word of God is stronger than all error. Even starting small, good preaching has an effect. As the Pope says, “Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.”

“Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law.” This sentiment stirs hope. No matter where we are now, we can start anew in proclaiming the Gospel of peace and truth. Preaching the whole of Catholic Social Teaching, in a way that is forceful but non-partisan, can effect congregations, universities and attentive listeners in the public square. The seed of the Gospel can grow to be “the largest of plants…and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’” (Matthew 13:32)

The Pope proclaims that “Today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’ who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.” To preach peace is not to force a view of the world on others. It is to witness to the truth of humanity’s common dependence on God and status as brothers and sisters. As Pope Francis teaches, it requires conversion. That has always been the mission of the preacher. But it is not too large for anyone. God asks only a mustard seed of faith and the Holy Spirit can renew the face of the earth.

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