Monday, March 12, 2012

Private and Public Faith

Many aspects of the christian life have a tendency to drift toward internalization and spiritualization and away from the essentially public nature of our faith. The season of Lent is no exception. Increased attention to the spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, contemplation, study of scripture, reception of Communion, etc.) is, of course, a part of the observance of a holy Lent, but it is only one part. Often neglected is the other part of the observance: devotion to Works of Mercy.

In a 2007 issue of Liturgy devoted to the theme of Eschatology and Justice, Mary Elsbernd shared some thoughts about the church’s commitment to social justice, and how that commitment can be fruitfully explored within the context of Lenten preparation to receive the sacrament of baptism.
In our exploration of the RCIA process and four dimensions of social justice in Catholic social teachings, this contribution has repeated noted that the RCIA process is structured on justice as participation, the public dimension of faith, solidarity, and the eschatological vision of risen life. These central elements of social justice, however, continue to challenge the faith communities as well as the leaders, catechumens, and candidates in the RCIA process. If believing communities took risen life as the source for patterns and policies characterizing their Christian living and their initiation processes, Christian communities might well become the embodiment of a just and inclusive community envisioned in the Scriptures. New immigrants are welcomed and their struggle for just wages and adequate education is taken up by Christian communities. Local faith communities develop ways to be in sustained contact with persons of other socioeconomic classes, races, and national origins when such diversity does not characterize the neighborhood of the local church. Gay and lesbian believers experience hospitality and dignity in local Christian communities. Peace and justice activists use church space for meetings and forums. Local communities as a body take public stands on just wages and benefits, provision of heath care, and affordable housing out of faith convictions.
How are you exploring the church’s commitment to social justice as you guide those who are preparing to receive baptism this Easter?
Sr. Mary Elsbernd OSF was the director of the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago. She died on April 24, 2010.

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