Report: The Church’s Mission Today

Arun D’Souza SJ

  Too often we have more questions than answers. Sometimes we find answers or solutions; sometimes we do not. Lately, I have been bogged down by this question: where in the name of justice and honesty has all the money of the world gone! Everybody speaks about an economic crisis ? businesses, both large and small, running under loss, several nations already on the verge of bankruptcy, the working class finding itself with nothing to rely upon, multi-national companies laying off their workforce etc. The list of woes flows uninterrupted. It’s a fact that the ultimate outcome of the present mess in the world will have severe repercussions upon the next generation. When I make a vain attempt to analyze the present economic scenario, I find no answers, no solutions. Rather, that search leads me to a yet deeper question ? what are its implications on our faith life? I do not think I will ever find an answer to my question.
  On a different note, the Catholic Church is commemorating 50 years since the commencement of Vatican Council II. We are celebrating that historic time when the church opened its windows to the world, when our spiritual leaders took bold steps to blow fresh air into our liturgy without compromising its origins. We became an open church. No doubt, the inner workings of the Church and of society have undergone tremendous changes during the last 50 years. Many towards the better, a few otherwise. We should take what is good and constructive as we start our jubilee.
  Though my experience is limited, one thing that has been very consoling is that the relationship between the Church and society has grown. Both are closely knit, trying to supplement each other.
  They are no longer considered as two separate entities. All that happens out in society, in the world, has a direct influence or effect on the Church and the faith journey of her children. The present economic crisis is no exception. One cannot simply ignore the fact that the challenging situation out there in the world has not affected our faith. It has changed our ways of thinking and acting, our religious practices and our family life, our priorities and our choices, and ultimately, our life in the Spirit.

  In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical Rerum Novarum (Latin for “On the New Things”). It was an open letter, sent to all Catholic bishops, which addressed the condition of the working classes. It discussed the relationships and mutual duties between labor and obtaining capital, as well as government and its citizens. At this juncture, after 120 years of Rerum Novarum, I feel the Church ought to take a similar stand that will answer many questions that the corporate world has failed to answer. Our faith must issue in practical actions (cf. James 2:17). As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II it’s time to reflect and hope for a better world to dwell in. It’s an opportunity to ruminate on the reasons for the current economic mess and to find ways to overcome this crisis. In the past, our Church has shown the world that faith can heal brokenness, dialogue can bring reconciliation, sharing can promote prosperity, humility can lead to peace. Our Church has a genuine mission. Our shepherds have greater responsibilities to lead the flock through this crisis. I hope and pray that all those who, like me, struggle to find answers to their questions will have something to cheer about at the end of the jubilee celebration. Our faith in God and our commitment to society will accompany us.

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