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KOTA KINABALU – A two-day seminar on the Social Teachings of the Church was held at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre Oct 17-18, organized by the Archdiocesan Human Development Commission. It was facilitated by La Salle Brother Anthony Rogers. About 59 persons from St Simon Church Likas, Sacred Heart and CMI attended the seminar which also encompassed reflections on Pope Francis’ “Joy of the Gospel”.
According to Bro Rogers, the key emphases which characterize Catholic Social Teaching are large and by no means exhaustive. However he listed out some of the major themes as:
(a) The Link of Religious and Social Dimension of Life: Where the social dimension is intimately linked with faith. (b) Dignity of the Human Person: Made in the image of God, women and men have a pre-eminent place in the social order. Human dignity can be recognized and protected only in community with others. (c) Political and Economic Rights: All human persons have political (e.g. legal, free speech, migration) and socio-economic rights (e.g. food, shelter, work, education). These rights are to be respected and protected by all institutions of society. (d) Preferential option for the poor where ‘poor’ is understood to refer to the disadvantaged, who as a consequence, suffer oppression and powerlessness. (e) Link of Love and Justice: Love of neighbour is an absolute demand for justice, as actions and structures will respect human dignity and protect human rights and facilitate human development. (f) Promotion of the Common Good: The sum total of the conditions for social living – economic, political, cultural. (g) Subsidiarity: Where responsibilities and decisions should be attended to in local communities and institutions. Structures of families, neighborhoods, community groups, small businesses and local governments should be fostered and participated in. (h) Political participation: Democratic participation in decision-making is the best way to respect the dignity and liberty of people. (i) Economic Justice: The economy is from the people and the resources of the earth are to be shared equitably by all. Just wages and the right of workers to organize are to be respected. (j) Stewardship: People are to respect and share the resources of the earth, and by our work we are co-creators in the continuing development of the earth. (k) Global Solidarity: We belong to one human family and have mutual obligations to promote the rights and development of all peoples across the world. (l) Promotion of Peace and Integrity of Creation.
Coincidentally this seminar was conducted just before Mission Sunday where the universal Church reminds us of our mission to go forth and evangelize. Bro Rogers helped the participants to focus on how we look at New Evangelization as transforming civilization and make it relevant for the post-modern world.
“To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world”.
According to him, the missionary key is the way forward and this moves the Church “from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry”. We need servant leadership for the Kingdom not based on tradition and loyalty but in the path of Humility, Poverty and Simplicity of the Jesus of the Gospels.
The task for us is to proclaim boldly the Gospel not only with words but with a life transformed by God’s presence, to be Spirit-filled evangelizers. Only a faith that is alive can through Words (head) and Works (hand) touch the heart. Only by a personal encounter with Jesus we undergo a conversion, and only then through contemplation, learn to see anew, feel anew and listen anew. This conversion gives rise to compassion which leads to courage to move to change the hearts of others.
The participants were divided into small groups to discuss the key concerns that threaten the world and its effects on the Church and ultimately their own faith. Topmost was the environment we live in today – an age of vast information and knowledge leading to a more secular society pervaded by consumerism. Economic inequalities, violence, war and persecution and a spiritual desert in some societies have resulted in evangelizers who lack joy, spirituality without God, defeatism, selfishness and spiritual sloth, lack of zeal, secularism and relativism – where lack of norms become normal.
These global threats and challenges also impact our local Church in Sabah where the prevailing environment affects our communities and our families to the very core. Transmission of faith to our children is under siege, resulting in weak faith formation leaving them susceptible to external influences. Serious concerns pointed out by the groups included the tyranny of money; family problems; lack of quality time with children resulting in loss of identity and growing indifference; corruption as a way of life; inequalities in society; an unfettered social media.
In order to evangelize effectively, we must, according to Pope Francis, free ourselves from the culture of prosperity and reject the idolatry of money; reject a financial system which promotes exclusion and inequality in society which could lead to violence; reject selfishness and spiritual sloth; not to be pessimistic but to have confidence in our missionary zeal; reject spiritual worldliness but only to seek God’s glory; not have warring among ourselves; have a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ or an openness to letting him encounter us; and having new encounters with others and be challenged with their pains, pleas and joys through their close interaction with us.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) marked a fundamental change in the Church’s attitude and perspective toward the world and its methodology of the Church’s Social Teaching.
Bro Rogers said that in order to create change, we must first be aware of and reflect on the situation, then judge it based on certain criteria in line with our faith and the nature and dignity of the person. We then act in that direction, beginning in our circle of influence. Then as a community we will journey from being – as he so succinctly said – ‘all God’s people’ to ‘People of God’, not sitting on the margins but boldly going forth to promote peace and justice in society, proclaiming God’s presence in the world not only through the Gospel but through our transformed lives. Only then can we truly be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world”. (Mat 5:13-16) – Vera Chin/AHDC