Foundational Principles #6: Love in Action
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn.3:16).
During His ministry on Earth, Jesus revealed this love to us in very concrete ways. He healed the sick, He fed the hungry and He brought hope to the downhearted. He also kept close company with society’s outcasts, such as lepers, the lost sinners and despised Samaritans. Jesus mercifully responded to people’s physical, mental and spiritual anguish. He walked in their shoes, understood their sufferings and sincerely desired their liberation. As Pope Francis proclaimed in his Message for the Fifth World Day of the Poor, “Jesus not only sides with the poor; he also shares their lot” (no. 3).
The Church today must do the same. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI taught, this is why exercising the ministries of charity and social justice is one of the Church’s three- fold responsibilities. Along with proclaiming the Word and celebrating the sacraments, “charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being” (Deus Caritas Est, no.25a).
As the home of the Church, then, our parishes are to embrace the work of charity and justice as an integral part of their identities – although this may look different for each faith community. Parishes live this out, for example, by partnering with Catholic Charities or Catholic Social Services to assist at food pantries or welcome newly arrived refugee and migrant families to the community. Other ministries advocate to public officials for the lives of the unborn, for more public support for mothers in need or for an end to capital punishment. Some parishes conscientiously care for creation and future generations by using less energy and resources on parish grounds. Others proactively ensure involvement in the life and decision-making of the parish from those of minority backgrounds and those with disabilities. The list goes on.
The Beacons of Light “Love in Action” principle cheers on every Family of Parishes’ critical work to serve those in need, change systems that marginalize and oppress, protect human life from conception until natural death and build bridges of solidarity across the beautiful diversity of our one human family.
This is not a new vision. In fact, the U.S. Catholic bishops forthrightly stated 30 years ago that “the Church’s social mission is an essential measure of every parish community”
(Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish). However, the Beacons of Light process offers new opportunities. With multiple church communities combining their ministries, talents and resources, this is a new moment for us to multiply our works of mercy. As we forge new relationships across former parish boundaries, now is our time to rediscover together the Gospel of love and to make a greater impact in the world!
In response, the Love in Action team wants to support Families of Parishes in building social ministry structures that expand parishioner involvement, increase coordination among all involved and elevate the works of mercy to the highest consciences of parish identity.
Love in Action envisions that our Parish Families will:
- Recognize the HUMAN DIGNITY of each person, who is created in the “image of God” (Gaudium et Spes, 12).
- EDUCATE and FORM parishioners, staff and clergy – utilizing the rich history of Catholic Social Teaching and Scripture – on what it means to be a community of “salt and light” in today’s world (Mt. 5:13-16).
- Create spaces of BELONGING that facilitate the inclusion, affirmation and meaningful participation of all Catholics in the community of faith.
- Exercise the ministries of CHARITY and JUSTICE, with significant numbers of parishioners engaging in both direct service to the vulnerable and public advocacy to protect all life and care for creation.
- Inspire all members to SOLIDARITY, encountering Christ in all people, both locally and across the globe. As Pope John Paul II declared, “we are all really responsible for all” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no.38).
We should all be asking ourselves what success is supposed to look like through this Beacons of Light reorganization. One outcome must certainly be an advancement of charity and justice ministries throughout our local Church. Or, more to the point, more people should experience God’s love more fully through our works of mercy. In addition, we should all expect that more parishioners will know the joy of furthering the kingdom of God. May the Holy Spirit guide our vital efforts for the sake of our parishes – and the world!
This article appeared in the July 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.