A civilization of love - the Feast of the Sacred Heart
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is usually in June, but this year it falls on July 1. Christ’s pierced heart resonates with me and always has. On my coat of arms there is a stream of blood and water which flows from the side of the cross. This honors the heart of Christ which is the source of life for all of us, especially in the gifts of baptism and the Eucharist.
Reflecting on this heart of Christ, we are brought into his very desire to create a “civilization of love.” The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church notes that “Personal behavior is fully human when it is born of love, manifests love and is ordered to love. This truth also applies in the social sphere; Christians must be deeply convinced witnesses of this, and they are to show by their lives how love is the only force (cf. I Corinthians 12:31-14:1) that can lead to personal and social perfection, allowing society to make progress towards the good.” (#580)
It is in this context of a “civilization of love” that we embrace the mission of Jesus to proclaim good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18) This calls for the whole Church and all her members to have a preferential option or love for the poor. The Compendium comments:
In the whole of her social teaching, the Church never tires of emphasizing certain fundamental principles of this teaching, first and foremost, the universal destination of goods. Constantly reaffirming the principle of solidarity, the Church’s social doctrine demands action to promote “the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” The principle of solidarity, even in the fight against poverty, must always be appropriately accompanied by that of subsidiarity, thanks to which it is possible to foster the spirit of initiative, the fundamental basis of all social and economic development in poor countries. The poor should be seen “not as a problem, but as people who can become the principal builders of a new and more human future for everyone.”
It is good to meditate on some of the words in this quotation. The universal destination of goods flows from the fact that God created the whole earth for all the members of the human family. God did not intend to exclude or favor anyone with this gift of creation. Thus every human being has a right to those resources which satisfy basic needs. St. John Chrysostom once preached on the Gospel text about Lazarus: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”
The preferential option for the poor really comes from Jesus’ own lifestyle and his care for the poor. He preached on this himself when he proclaimed: “Blessed are the poor for yours is the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) From this flows the long tradition we have, as Catholics, of the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, for poverty can be found in the material arena, but also in the cultural and spiritual as well. Yet, this care for the poor is also accomplished by addressing poverty’s social and political dimensions.
Subsidiarity has been a constant element of the Church’s social doctrine. Pope Pius XI explained this in his 1931 encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno (#203):
Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community; so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.
Of course, all of this must be done with the deepest respect for the human person.
Finally, solidarity demands that our institutions rid themselves of structures which create divisions and instead create structures which promote genuine relationships with all peoples. This is based not on some good feelings we might have or not have for others. Rather, this flows from the concern which we all have for the common good and for the dignity of each and every human being. Here it is where we all must have a sense of giving ourselves for all others, of serving all others, even of dying for all others, all in imitation of Christ himself.
The Heart of Christ calls us to become his heart, flowing with his love for all.