Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for February 19, 2006

Last week, we examined the first half of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est, which is a theoretical or “speculative” look at the nature of human and divine love. The second half, our Holy Father tells us, “is more concrete, since it treats the ecclesial exercise of the commandment of love of neighbor” (1). In his introduction to the second part, he says: “The entire activity of the Church is an expression of a love that seeks the integral good of man: it seeks his evangelization through Word and Sacrament, and undertaking that is often heroic in the way it is acted out in history; and it seeks to promote man in the various arenas of life and human activity. Love is therefore the service that the Church carries out in order to attend constantly to man’s sufferings and his needs, including material needs” (19, my emphasis).

After a brief historical examination of the Church’s earliest concern for the poor, particularly using St. Lawrence as an example, the pope stresses two important facts: first, “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia)”; second, “The Church is God’s family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life. Yet at the same time caritas-agape extends beyond the frontiers of the Church” (25).

The question then arises: what is the relationship of faith to politics? Are the role of the State and the Church the same, interrelated, or completely distinct? The pope reminds us that “the Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State” (28). Nevertheless, “there is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love” (ibid.). Clearly, the Church is not left on the sidelines.

The Church, rather, “is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run” (29). The pope asks the concrete question: “What are the essential elements of Christian and ecclesial charity?” Section 31 provides the answers.

First, it is “the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison, etc.” But we must give more than just material support; we also must truly love those in need of our care.

Second, he says charitable activity “must be independent of parties and ideologies.” Instead of serving worldly goals, charity “is a way of making present here and now the love which man always needs.”

Finally, charity “cannot be used as a means of engaging in what is nowadays considered proselytism.” Nevertheless, we don’t place Christ on the sidelines in our charity; rather, we allow love alone to speak. “God’s presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we do is to love.” Thus, “by their activity – as well as their words, their silence, their example – they may be credible witnesses to Christ.”

Mary, he says, is our perfect model and example of faith, hope, and love. He concludes with this beautiful prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, you have given the world its true light, Jesus, your Son – the Son of God. You abandoned yourself completely to God’s call and thus became a wellspring of the goodness which flows forth from him. Show us Jesus. Lead us to him. Teach us to know and love him, so that we too can become capable of true love and be fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world” (41).