Saturday, 25 May 2013 01:18
By Elizabeth Field
and Father Thomas Barcellona
The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to “global solidarity.” Speaking with the heart of Jesus, our bishops say in the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” “We are one family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions and requires us to eradicate racism and address the extreme poverty and disease plaguing so much of the world” (No. 53).
The bishops tell us that we as a nation need to take a leading role in collaboration on an international call to social justice – in other words, we could say that we are to take as our “mantra,” more literally than figuratively, “one for all and all for one.” The U.S. bishops wrote this document to guide our decision-making when voting, reminding us of our Christian call to solidarity – the call to “welcome the stranger” no matter who or where they are. This is to include immigrants seeking work, a safe home and a good education for their children and a decent life for their families. We, who have been given so much by way of religious and civil freedoms, are bound in Christian justice and charity to help others in need – to all our brothers and sisters in Christ. To those to whom much is given, much is required.
Obstacles to solidarity are many, whether or not it is on the individual or social level. It is difficult at times to practice the requirements of discipleship and stewardship in light of the complexities of today’s world. It is all the more important, therefore, for Catholics to be familiar with the social doctrine of the Church.
Another pertinent document from the U.S. bishops, “Economic Justice for All,” says that in order for Christians to be just in their relationships, attention must be given to contributive justice, one aspect of the virtue of solidarity which then gives a moral context to productivity, not just an economic one. This document says that productivity “cannot be measured solely by its output of goods and services.” Rather, “patterns of productivity must … be measured in light of their impact on the fulfillment of basic needs, employment levels, patterns of discrimination, environmental impact, and sense of community” (No. 71). We must ask ourselves what are the layers of consequences resulting from our decisions – immediate and long range?
On another scale, an obstacle to solidarity comes from the persistence of religious divisions and conflicts. This keeps Christians far removed from fulfilling Jesus’ priestly prayer “that they may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you” (Jn.17:21).
The Second Vatican Council names the church as the People of God, and as such has received from God a universal call to holiness. We each have been given this call — given to us through our baptism. It is through this gift of baptism, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we are all united to Christ and to one another, for Christ says “I am the vine and you are the branches” (Jn.15:5).
Christ came for the salvation of the world. He showed us how to love, with a special love for those most in need and on the fringes of society. Our eternal salvation, we know through the story of the last judgment, rests upon how we treat others. “Others” we have come to understand means not just those we know and love, but all those whose lives we have a chance to touch. “For whatsoever you did to the least of these, you did to me” (Matt. 25).
One of the ways to respond to Christ’s call to love our neighbor as ourselves and maximize our ability to make life better for others is by voting. Thus, it is our duty to search out our candidates’ record and beliefs in order that we might vote for leaders in government with an informed conscience.
In this document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops challenge us to care for those most in need by the way we vote. This means being open to the question “How can I care as Jesus taught us to care, to love others as he did?” This requires openness to a change of heart at times so that we might see things as God sees them, not as humans see them.
We must stand with the most vulnerable in our society who are hurting the most and wrestle with how we might help them best be served.
All those who entered into the New Covenant of Jesus at baptism, and have remained connected to the vine while choosing to be open to and responsive to the grace of the moment, will find themselves growing in union with, and in the attitude of, Jesus. As we take on the mind and heart of Jesus, we find ourselves more in communion with all suffering humanity, able to embrace them with the love and mercy of God.
Then, in the name of Christ and entrusted with the mission of continuing the work of Christ now, we become the voice of the voiceless in our society. Here, we enable the Good News of Jesus Christ to relieve the suffering of millions of people “under the radar” of much of society. Thus, by our vote for those in need, we influence the wider world arena!
Let us take seriously our Christian responsibility of forming our consciences according to Sacred Scripture and tradition, reading and prayerfully reflecting upon Jesus’ example and Church documents, so that we might vote intentionally to be in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, and thus care for them as Christ would care for them during this election season and forward. In the words of Pope Paul VI, “If you want peace, work for justice” (World Day of Peace Message, Jan. 1, 1972).
Elizabeth Field is interim director of Office of Religious Education, Diocese of Camden. Father Thomas Barcellona is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Somerdale, and director of the Diocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Diocese of Camden. For more information pertaining to Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, go to the Diocese of Camden website, www.CamdenDiocese.org.