Dr. John Vazhakoottathil OCD August 28th, 2018

Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Latter, Laudato sì, said that the contemporary man has not been trained well to discover his innate power. The immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. “Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind unconscious forces of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. …We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of safeguarding natural limits and discipline.’ (Laudato sì # 105) The irresponsible use of human freedom has very serious consequences in the nature that the earth is gradually becoming a dry planet endangering the continuity of life. Human being is losing his capacity to live and the courage and good will to generate life. It is in this context that the Church dedicates herself to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a new way through the Encyclical. The relevant question is: what is the fundamental nature that makes the Church a Church of Christ and what is her basic mission?

We read in the Acts of the Apostles the episode of two apostles – Peter and John – going up to the temple at the hour of prayer to present themselves before the people so that all may experience their participation in the new humanity preached by Jesus Christ. (Acts 3, 1-26) On the way they met a man whose physical weakness was exploited by some people making him a beggar. After calling the attention of that poor man, Peter said: “I haveno silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” ( Acts 3, 6) Religion has a meaning and relevance only when it offers to humanity something other than silver and gold, other than the offer of worldly fortunes. Jesus reacted very strongly against the people who turned the temple of God into a market place. ( Mark 11, 15-17) In the Gospel of Mark we see how Jesus declares an order of life for his disciples who will continue his mission. (Mk 6, 7-13) They have to ‘see with their eyes and touch with their hands’ the simplicity of life that Jesus lived before them, they have to believe that this is the style of life of a true worshipper of God, they have to prove their credibility by living a simple life and then, they have to proclaim to everyone what they live.

The new order of life proposed by Jesus cancels all the worldly assurances of a better life. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14, 17) It is this kingdom of the spiritual goods that the Church is asked to proclaim. The true disciples are to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and then they will be liberated from the temptation of establishing the safety and security of life by the accumulation of wealth and from the consequent fear and anxiety. Instead of trusting in wealth all have to trust in God and live the daily life in simplicity and mutual sharing. Jesus assures that this new order of life will bring among men the prosperity and liberty that the birds of the air and the lilies of the field enjoy without anxiety and worry. (Matthew 6, 26-34) As long as the Church witnesses the characteristics of this new order proposed by the Master, she is the Church of Christ. The mission of the Church is to live and proclaim the principles of morality and spirituality although it has the consequences in the economic, social and political spheres of human life. By word and example the apostles of the Church proclaim the new order of humanity given by Jesus to protect the nature within and outside.

In the Book of Amos we come across a strange situation that the priest of the sanctuary at Bethel drives away prophet Amos from there: “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom”! (Amos 7, 12-13) Even the sanctuaries of God are possessed by the powers of the world and the true worshippers of God have no access to them. How can we go on living and proclaiming the values of the Gospel if we are impeded by the worldly powers of envy and greed? Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, witnesses that the very establishment of the new order of life within the disciple gives him a blessed awareness of his participation in the eternal glory of the sons of God. (Eph 1, 3-14) A perseverance in this awareness, which is obtained by the spiritual exercises at various hours of the day with Jesus Christ, will empower a disciple to experience the healing and freedom within himself and share them to others in each word and deed.

Pope Francis instructs us ‘to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is a liberation from fear, greed and compulsion’. (Laudato sì # 9) With Saint Paul let us praise and thank God always and help others do the same by letting them see our life of faith, hope and love.