The Temple and its associated power structures are finished. Second, within the Kingdom, previous national and ethnic loyalties are abandoned. In the Kingdom, the Samaritan is not the enemy. Thus there are two possible errors here. We could confine the Kingdom largely to the future, denying its effective presence in the world for today and minimising its political dimension.
This is the way we are pushed in liberal democracies where the separation of politics from religion has become an article of faith. Evangelicals who want to disentangle the Kingdom of Heaven entirely from the messy world of earthly politics are guilty of this error. Depriving the Kingdom of some of its rightful claims, their tendency is to spiritualise away the statements about the Kingdom which have an immediate, earthly application.
On the other hand, to believe that the Kingdom can be fulfilled within the present age — the dream of certain liberal optimists and Christian socialists — is to ignore the plain teaching of Scripture, supported by our own experience that the power of sin and evil does not look like fading away! This is to attribute too much to the politics of the Kingdom — the error of the social gospel, holding that the Kingdom is active in political movements and human progress even where Christ is not acknowledged.
No, we will have to live with evil until the Son of God returns. Jesus was born into a world awash with political currents. Without exception, every group with whom he interacted had a political agenda, yet he aligned himself with none. His message identified the true enemy of Israel not as Rome but as sin and Satan. And rather than the immediate, visible deliverance which the Jews longed for, he preached a Kingdom with a different identity, both continuous and discontinuous with the hopes of the past.
Continuous, in that God would indeed save, gather and rule over his people: discontinuous, in that it would be born and grow quietly, sometimes in secret; and it would co-exist with the kingdom of the present evil age. This Messiah would renounce the sword and conquer through his death. Clearly not in the party political sense.
Nor was his agenda political, in that it did not aim primarily at changing earthly power structures. And yet he was political. The Kingdom thus makes two kinds of political claim. Firstly, it summons its own members to a radically new and wholly exclusive commitment to Christ the King.
This allegiance takes the place of those we previously held and makes us ultimately indifferent to the authority of others. Nationalism becomes an obsolete anomaly: we are not to confuse the Kingdom and the national flag. Human government we accept gratefully as an institution of God, with a legitimate role to play; but we do not owe it our heart loyalty.
Nor are we to duplicate worldly power structures or attitudes. Jesus renounced violence and coercion in the service of the Kingdom — so must we. Secondly, the Kingdom issues a political challenge to the world at large. It attacks the very foundation stones of earthly politics by calling rulers to abandon their pretensions to absolute power and to recognise the true source of such power as they do possess. The way of the Kingdom is to scatter the proud and bring oppressive rulers down from their thrones.
Thus in the liberal West, the Church will refuse to accept the political consensus that privatises faith and denies any absolute truth claims. At the same time, she will seek out and protect those facing injustice and without a voice, exalting the humble and lifting up the downtrodden. Faced by the rule of tyrants, believers will defy their aspiration to absolute authority over human lives, even if it costs them their own. The alternative values of the Kingdom are also a positive invitation to think differently, calling rulers away from tyranny and oppression towards its own Jubilee values of justice and mercy.
In the shaping of Western society, this invitation has received a response. We do not live under tyranny: our society bears the imprint of the politics of Jesus. The principles of public servanthood and accountability which democracies hold dear are, after all, Kingdom principles. But the Kingdom also bears loud and clear witness to the strict limitations of political salvation.
The call is for every knee to bow to King Jesus and every tongue to confess him as Lord: and one day, everyone will. Category : News and Reviews. Your email address will not be published. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Was Jesus Political? Israel sealed off biblical Bethlehem in a West Bank clampdown after gunmen killed three settlers in October.
What might the political implications be if Jesus had been born into modern Bethlehem? Into modern Britain? Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. By means of the present document, the Church intends to offer a contribution of truth to the question of man's place in nature and in human society, a question faced by civilizations and cultures in which expressions of human wisdom are found. Rooted in a past that is often thousands of years old and manifesting themselves in forms of religion, philosophy and poetic genius of every time and of every people, these civilizations and cultures offer their own interpretation of the universe and of human society, and seek an understanding of existence and of the mystery that surrounds it.
Who am I? Why is there pain, evil, death, despite all the progress that has been made? What is the value of so many accomplishments if the cost has been unbearable? What will there be after this life? These are the basic questions that characterize the course of human life. The direction that human existence, society and history will take depends largely on the answers given to the questions of man's place in nature and society; the purpose of the present document is to make a contribution to these answers.
The deepest meaning of human existence, in fact, is revealed in the free quest for that truth capable of giving direction and fullness to life. The aforementioned questions incessantly draw human intelligence and the human will to this quest. They are the highest expression of human nature, since they require a response that measures the depth of an individual's commitment to his own existence.
The fundamental questions accompanying the human journey from the very beginning take on even greater significance in our own day, because of the enormity of the challenges, the novelty of the situations and the importance of the decisions facing modern generations. The first of the great challenges facing humanity today is that of the truth itself of the being who is man.
The boundary and relation between nature, technology and morality are issues that decisively summon personal and collective responsibility with regard to the attitudes to adopt concerning what human beings are, what they are able to accomplish and what they should be.
A second challenge is found in the understanding and management of pluralism and differences at every level: in ways of thinking, moral choices, culture, religious affiliation, philosophy of human and social development. The third challenge is globalization , the significance of which is much wider and more profound than simple economic globalization, since history has witnessed the opening of a new era that concerns humanity's destiny. The disciples of Jesus Christ feel that they are involved with these questions; they too carry them within their hearts and wish to commit themselves, together with all men and women, to the quest for the truth and the meaning of life lived both as individual persons and as a society.
They contribute to this quest by their generous witness to the free and extraordinary gift that humanity has received : God has spoken his Word to men and women throughout history; indeed he himself has entered history in order to enter into dialogue with humanity and to reveal to mankind his plan of salvation, justice and brotherhood. In Jesus Christ, his Son made man, God has freed us from sin and has shown us the path we are to walk and the goal towards which we are to strive. The Church journeys along the roads of history together with all of humanity. She lives in the world, and although not of the world cf.
Jn she is called to serve the world according to her innermost vocation. This attitude, found also in the present document, is based on the deep conviction that just as it is important for the world to recognize the Church as a reality of history and a leaven in history, so too is it important for the Church to recognize what she has received from history and from the development of the human race.
The Church, the sign in history of God's love for mankind and of the vocation of the whole human race to unity as children of the one Father , intends with this document on her social doctrine to propose to all men and women a humanism that is up to the standards of God's plan of love in history, an integral and solidary humanism capable of creating a new social, economic and political order, founded on the dignity and freedom of every human person, to be brought about in peace, justice and solidarity.
This humanism can become a reality if individual men and women and their communities are able to cultivate moral and social virtues in themselves and spread them in society. Centesimus Annus , God's gratuitous presence. Every authentic religious experience, in all cultural traditions, leads to an intuition of the Mystery that, not infrequently, is able to recognize some aspect of God's face. On the one hand, God is seen as the origin of what exists , as the presence that guarantees to men and women organized in a society the basic conditions of life, placing at their disposal the goods that are necessary.
On the other hand, he appears as the measure of what should be , as the presence that challenges human action — both at the personal and at the social levels — regarding the use of those very goods in relation to other people. In every religious experience, therefore, importance attaches to the dimension of gift and gratuitousness , which is seen as an underlying element of the experience that the human beings have of their existence together with others in the world, as well as to the repercussions of this dimension on the human conscience, which senses that it is called to manage responsibly and together with others the gift received.
Against the background of universal religious experience, in which humanity shares in different ways, God's progressive revelation of himself to the people of Israel stands out. This revelation responds to the human quest for the divine in an unexpected and surprising way, thanks to the historical manner — striking and penetrating — in which God's love for man is made concrete. These become historical action, which is the origin of the manner in which the Lord's people collectively identify themselves, through the acquisition of freedom and the land that the Lord gives them.
The gratuitousness of this historically efficacious divine action is constantly accompanied by the commitment to the covenant, proposed by God and accepted by Israel. On Mount Sinai, God's initiative becomes concrete in the covenant with his people, to whom is given the Decalogue of the commandments revealed by the Lord cf. Ex Moral existence is a response to the Lord's loving initiative. It is the acknowledgment and homage given to God and a worship of thanksgiving. The Ten Commandments, which constitute an extraordinary path of life and indicate the surest way for living in freedom from slavery to sin, contain a privileged expression of the natural law.
They describe universal human morality. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds the rich young man that the Ten Commandments cf. There comes from the Decalogue a commitment that concerns not only fidelity to the one true God, but also the social relations among the people of the Covenant. The gift of freedom and the Promised Land, and the gift of the Covenant on Sinai and the Ten Commandments are therefore intimately linked to the practices which must regulate, in justice and solidarity, the development of Israelite society.
Among the many norms which tend to give concrete expression to the style of gratuitousness and sharing in justice which God inspires, the law of the sabbatical year celebrated every seven years and that of the jubilee year celebrated every fifty years  stand out as important guidelines — unfortunately never fully put into effect historically — for the social and economic life of the people of Israel.
Besides requiring fields to lie fallow, these laws call for the cancellation of debts and a general release of persons and goods: everyone is free to return to his family of origin and to regain possession of his birthright. This legislation is designed to ensure that the salvific event of the Exodus and fidelity to the Covenant represents not only the founding principle of Israel's social, political and economic life, but also the principle for dealing with questions concerning economic poverty and social injustices.
This principle is invoked in order to transform, continuously and from within, the life of the people of the Covenant, so that this life will correspond to God's plan. To eliminate the discrimination and economic inequalities caused by socio-economic changes, every seven years the memory of the Exodus and the Covenant are translated into social and juridical terms, in order to bring the concepts of property, debts, loans and goods back to their deepest meaning. The precepts of the sabbatical and jubilee years constitute a kind of social doctrine in miniature .
They show how the principles of justice and social solidarity are inspired by the gratuitousness of the salvific event wrought by God, and that they do not have a merely corrective value for practices dominated by selfish interests and objectives, but must rather become, as a prophecy of the future, the normative points of reference to which every generation in Israel must conform if it wishes to be faithful to its God. These principles become the focus of the Prophets' preaching, which seeks to internalize them.
God's Spirit, poured into the human heart — the Prophets proclaim — will make these same sentiments of justice and solidarity, which reside in the Lord's heart, take root in you cf. Jer and Ezek Then God's will, articulated in the Decalogue given on Sinai, will be able to take root creatively in man's innermost being.
This process of internalization gives rise to greater depth and realism in social action, making possible the progressive universalization of attitudes of justice and solidarity , which the people of the Covenant are called to have towards all men and women of every people and nation. The reflection of the Prophets and that found in the Wisdom Literature, in coming to the formulation of the principle that all things were created by God, touch on the first manifestation and the source itself of God's plan for the whole of humanity.
In Israel's profession of faith, to affirm that God is Creator does not mean merely expressing a theoretical conviction, but also grasping the original extent of the Lord's gratuitous and merciful action on behalf of man. In fact, God freely confers being and life on everything that exists.
Man and woman, created in his image and likeness cf. Gen , are for that very reason called to be the visible sign and the effective instrument of divine gratuitousness in the garden where God has placed them as cultivators and custodians of the goods of creation. It is in the free action of God the Creator that we find the very meaning of creation, even if it has been distorted by the experience of sin. In fact, the narrative of the first sin cf. Gen describes the permanent temptation and the disordered situation in which humanity comes to find itself after the fall of its progenitors.
Disobedience to God means hiding from his loving countenance and seeking to control one's life and action in the world. Breaking the relation of communion with God causes a rupture in the internal unity of the human person, in the relations of communion between man and woman and of the harmonious relations between mankind and other creatures. It is in this original estrangement that are to be sought the deepest roots of all the evils that afflict social relations between people, of all the situations in economic and political life that attack the dignity of the person, that assail justice and solidarity.
In Jesus Christ the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled. The benevolence and mercy that inspire God's actions and provide the key for understanding them become so very much closer to man that they take on the traits of the man Jesus, the Word made flesh.
Is Jesus therefore places himself on the frontline of fulfilment, not only because he fulfils what was promised and what was awaited by Israel, but also in the deeper sense that in him the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled. Jesus, in other words, is the tangible and definitive manifestation of how God acts towards men and women. The love that inspires Jesus' ministry among men is the love that he has experienced in his intimate union with the Father.
Jesus announces the liberating mercy of God to those whom he meets on his way, beginning with the poor, the marginalized, the sinners. He invites all to follow him because he is the first to obey God's plan of love, and he does so in a most singular way, as God's envoy in the world. Jesus' self-awareness of being the Son is an expression of this primordial experience. For Jesus, recognizing the Father's love means modelling his actions on God's gratuitousness and mercy; it is these that generate new life.
It means becoming — by his very existence — the example and pattern of this for his disciples. Jesus' followers are called to live like him and, after his Passover of death and resurrection, to live also in him and by him , thanks to the superabundant gift of the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, who internalizes Christ's own style of life in human hearts. With the unceasing amazement of those who have experienced the inexpressible love of God cf.
Rom , the New Testament grasps, in the light of the full revelation of Trinitarian love offered by the Passover of Jesus Christ, the ultimate meaning of the Incarnation of the Son and his mission among men and women. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? The Face of God, progressively revealed in the history of salvation, shines in its fullness in the Face of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; truly distinct and truly one, because God is an infinite communion of love. God's gratuitous love for humanity is revealed, before anything else, as love springing from the Father, from whom everything draws its source; as the free communication that the Son makes of this love, giving himself anew to the Father and giving himself to mankind; as the ever new fruitfulness of divine love that the Holy Spirit pours forth into the hearts of men cf.
Rom By his words and deeds, and fully and definitively by his death and resurrection , Jesus reveals to humanity that God is Father and that we are all called by grace to become his children in the Spirit cf. Rom ; Gal , and therefore brothers and sisters among ourselves. Meditating on the gratuitousness and superabundance of the Father's divine gift of the Son, which Jesus taught and bore witness to by giving his life for us, the Apostle John grasps its profound meaning and its most logical consequence.
The commandment of mutual love shows how to live in Christ the Trinitarian life within the Church, the Body of Christ, and how to transform history until it reaches its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. The commandment of mutual love, which represents the law of life for God's people , must inspire, purify and elevate all human relationships in society and in politics.
Trinitarian love, the origin and goal of the human person. The revelation in Christ of the mystery of God as Trinitarian love is at the same time the revelation of the vocation of the human person to love. This revelation sheds light on every aspect of the personal dignity and freedom of men and women, and on the depths of their social nature.
In the communion of love that is God, and in which the Three Divine Persons mutually love one another and are the One God, the human person is called to discover the origin and goal of his existence and of history. It follows, then, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself cf. Christian revelation shines a new light on the identity, the vocation and the ultimate destiny of the human person and the human race.
Every person is created by God, loved and saved in Jesus Christ, and fulfils himself by creating a network of multiple relationships of love, justice and solidarity with other persons while he goes about his various activities in the world. Human activity, when it aims at promoting the integral dignity and vocation of the person, the quality of living conditions and the meeting in solidarity of peoples and nations, is in accordance with the plan of God, who does not fail to show his love and providence to his children.
The pages of the first book of Sacred Scripture, which describe the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God cf. Gen , contain a fundamental teaching with regard to the identity and the vocation of the human person. Gen This vision of the human person, of society and of history is rooted in God and is ever more clearly seen when his plan of salvation becomes a reality. Christian salvation: for all people and the whole person. The salvation offered in its fullness to men in Jesus Christ by God the Father's initiative, and brought about and transmitted by the work of the Holy Spirit, is salvation for all people and of the whole person: it is universal and integral salvation.
It concerns the human person in all his dimensions: personal and social, spiritual and corporeal, historical and transcendent. It begins to be made a reality already in history, because what is created is good and willed by God, and because the Son of God became one of us. Its completion, however, is in the future, when we shall be called, together with all creation cf. Rom 8 , to share in Christ's resurrection and in the eternal communion of life with the Father in the joy of the Holy Spirit. This outlook shows quite clearly the error and deception of purely immanentistic visions of the meaning of history and in humanity's claims to self-salvation.
The salvation offered by God to his children requires their free response and acceptance. In fact, the divine plan of salvation does not consign human creatures to a state of mere passivity or of lesser status in relation to their Creator, because their relationship to God, whom Jesus Christ reveals to us and in whom he freely makes us sharers by the working of the Holy Spirit, is that of a child to its parent: the very relationship that Jesus lives with the Father cf.
Jn ; Gal The universality and integrality of the salvation wrought by Christ makes indissoluble the link between the relationship that the person is called to have with God and the responsibility he has towards his neighbour in the concrete circumstances of history. This is sensed, though not always without some confusion or misunderstanding, in humanity's universal quest for truth and meaning, and it becomes the cornerstone of God's covenant with Israel, as attested by the tablets of the Law and the preaching of the Prophets.
This link finds a clear and precise expression in the teaching of Jesus Christ and is definitively confirmed by the supreme witness of the giving of his life, in obedience to the Father's will and out of love for his brothers and sisters. Inextricably linked in the human heart are the relationship with God — recognized as Creator and Father, the source and fulfilment of life and of salvation — and openness in concrete love towards man, who must be treated as another self, even if he is an enemy cf. Mt In man's inner dimension are rooted, in the final analysis, the commitment to justice and solidarity, to the building up of a social, economic and political life that corresponds to God's plan.
The disciple of Christ as a new creation. Personal and social life, as well as human action in the world, is always threatened by sin. Christ's disciple adheres, in faith and through the sacraments, to Jesus' Paschal Mystery, so that his old self , with its evil inclinations, is crucified with Christ. The inner transformation of the human person, in his being progressively conformed to Christ, is the necessary prerequisite for a real transformation of his relationships with others. It is not possible to love one's neighbour as oneself and to persevere in this conduct without the firm and constant determination to work for the good of all people and of each person, because we are all really responsible for everyone .
This path requires grace, which God offers to man in order to help him to overcome failings, to snatch him from the spiral of lies and violence, to sustain him and prompt him to restore with an ever new and ready spirit the network of authentic and honest relationships with his fellow men. Even the relationship with the created universe and human activity aimed at tending it and transforming it, activity which is daily endangered by man's pride and his inordinate self-love, must be purified and perfected by the cross and resurrection of Christ.
Man thanks his divine benefactor for all these things, he uses them and enjoys them in a spirit of poverty and freedom. Jesus Christ is the Son of God made man in whom and thanks to whom the world and man attain their authentic and full truth. The mystery of God's being infinitely close to man — brought about in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, who gave himself on the cross, abandoning himself to death — shows that the more that human realities are seen in the light of God's plan and lived in communion with God, the more they are empowered and liberated in their distinctive identity and in the freedom that is proper to them.
Sharing in Christ's life of sonship, made possible by the Incarnation and the Paschal gift of the Spirit, far from being a mortification, has the effect of unleashing the authentic and independent traits and identity that characterize human beings in all their various expressions. For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. There is no state of conflict between God and man, but a relationship of love in which the world and the fruits of human activity in the world are objects of mutual gift between the Father and his children, and among the children themselves, in Christ Jesus; in Christ and thanks to him the world and man attain their authentic and inherent meaning.
In a universal vision of God's love that embraces everything that exists, God himself is revealed to us in Christ as Father and giver of life, and man as the one who, in Christ, receives everything from God as gift, humbly and freely, and who truly possesses everything as his own when he knows and experiences everything as belonging to God, originating in God and moving towards God. The human person, in himself and in his vocation, transcends the limits of the created universe, of society and of history: his ultimate end is God himself , who has revealed himself to men in order to invite them and receive them into communion with himself .
The human person cannot and must not be manipulated by social, economic or political structures, because every person has the freedom to direct himself towards his ultimate end. We can speak here of an eschatological relativity , in the sense that man and the world are moving towards their end, which is the fulfilment of their destiny in God; we can also speak of a theological relativity , insofar as the gift of God, by which the definitive destiny of humanity and of creation will be attained, is infinitely greater than human possibilities and expectations.
Any totalitarian vision of society and the State, and any purely intra-worldly ideology of progress are contrary to the integral truth of the human person and to God's plan in history. The Church, sign and defender of the transcendence of the human person. The goal of salvation, the Kingdom of God embraces all people and is fully realized beyond history, in God. The Church places herself concretely at the service of the Kingdom of God above all by announcing and communicating the Gospel of salvation and by establishing new Christian communities.
Jn It follows from this, in particular, that the Church is not to be confused with the political community and is not bound to any political system . Indeed, it can be affirmed that the distinction between religion and politics and the principle of religious freedom constitute a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions. Precisely for this reason, the Church offers an original and irreplaceable contribution with the concern that impels her to make the family of mankind and its history more human, prompting her to place herself as a bulwark against every totalitarian temptation, as she shows man his integral and definitive vocation.
At the level of concrete historical dynamics, therefore, the coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be discerned in the perspective of a determined and definitive social, economic or political organization. Rather, it is seen in the development of a human social sense which for mankind is a leaven for attaining wholeness, justice and solidarity in openness to the Transcendent as a point of reference for one's own personal definitive fulfilment. The Church, the Kingdom of God and the renewal of social relations. God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person but also the social relations existing between men.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. In this perspective, Church communities, brought together by the message of Jesus Christ and gathered in the Holy Spirit round the Risen Lord cf. Mt , ; Lk , offer themselves as places of communion, witness and mission, and as catalysts for the redemption and transformation of social relationships.
The transformation of social relationships that responds to the demands of the Kingdom of God is not fixed within concrete boundaries once and for all. Rather, it is a task entrusted to the Christian community, which is to develop it and carry it out through reflection and practices inspired by the Gospel. It is the same Spirit of the Lord, leading the people of God while simultaneously permeating the universe, who from time to time inspires new and appropriate ways for humanity to exercise its creative responsibility. This inspiration is given to the community of Christians who are a part of the world and of history, and who are therefore open to dialogue with all people of good will in the common quest for the seeds of truth and freedom sown in the vast field of humanity.
The dynamics of this renewal must be firmly anchored in the unchangeable principles of the natural law, inscribed by God the Creator in each of his creatures cf. Rom , and bathed in eschatological light through Jesus Christ. This law is called to become the ultimate measure and rule of every dynamic related to human relations. In short, it is the very mystery of God, Trinitarian Love, that is the basis of the meaning and value of the person, of social relations, of human activity in the world, insofar as humanity has received the revelation of this and a share in it through Christ in his Spirit.
The transformation of the world is a fundamental requirement of our time also. To this need the Church's social Magisterium intends to offer the responses called for by the signs of the times, pointing above all to the mutual love between human beings, in the sight of God, as the most powerful instrument of change, on the personal and social levels. Mutual love, in fact, sharing in the infinite love of God, is humanity's authentic purpose, both historical and transcendent. New heavens and a new earth. God's promise and Jesus Christ's resurrection raise in Christians the well-founded hope that a new and eternal dwelling place is prepared for every human person, a new earth where justice abides cf.
This hope, rather than weaken, must instead strengthen concern for the work that is needed in the present reality. The good things — such as human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, all the good fruits of nature and of human enterprise — that in the Lord's Spirit and according to his command have spread throughout the earth, having been purified of every stain, illuminated and transfigured, belong to the Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, of love and of peace that Christ will present to the Father, and it is there that we shall once again find them.
The complete fulfilment of the human person, achieved in Christ through the gift of the Spirit, develops in history and is mediated by personal relationships with other people, relationships that in turn reach perfection thanks to the commitment made to improve the world, in justice and peace.
Human activity in history is of itself significant and effective for the definitive establishment of the Kingdom, although this remains a free gift of God, completely transcendent. Such activity, when it respects the objective order of temporal reality and is enlightened by truth and love, becomes an instrument for making justice and peace ever more fully and integrally present, and anticipates in our own day the promised Kingdom.
Conforming himself to Christ the Redeemer, man perceives himself as a creature willed by God and eternally chosen by him, called to grace and glory in all the fullness of the mystery in which he has become a sharer in Jesus Christ . Being conformed to Christ and contemplating his face  instil in Christians an irrepressible longing for a foretaste in this world, in the context of human relationships, of what will be a reality in the definitive world to come; thus Christians strive to give food, drink, clothing, shelter, care, a welcome and company to the Lord who knocks at the door cf.
Heir to the hope of the righteous in Israel and first among the disciples of Jesus Christ is Mary, his Mother.
Lk , in the name of all humanity, she accepts in history the One sent by the Father, the Saviour of mankind. Is ; The God of the Covenant, whom the Virgin of Nazareth praises in song as her spirit rejoices, is the One who casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty, scatters the proud and shows mercy to those who fear him cf.
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Lk Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him by the impetus of her faith. The Church, God's dwelling place with men and women. The Church, sharing in mankind's joys and hopes, in its anxieties and sadness, stands with every man and woman of every place and time, to bring them the good news of the Kingdom of God, which in Jesus Christ has come and continues to be present among them. In the midst of mankind and in the world she is the sacrament of God's love and, therefore, of the most splendid hope, which inspires and sustains every authentic undertaking for and commitment to human liberation and advancement.
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Rev , so that man is not alone, lost or frightened in his task of making the world more human; thus men and women find support in the redeeming love of Christ. As minister of salvation, the Church is not in the abstract nor in a merely spiritual dimension, but in the context of the history and of the world in which man lives. Here mankind is met by God's love and by the vocation to cooperate in the divine plan. Unique and unrepeatable in his individuality, every person is a being who is open to relationships with others in society.
Life together in society, in the network of relationships linking individuals, families and intermediate groups by encounter, communication and exchange, ensures a higher quality of living. The common good that people seek and attain in the formation of social communities is the guarantee of their personal, familial and associative good. These are the reasons for which society originates and takes shape, with its array of structures, that is to say its political, economic, juridical and cultural constructs.
As an expert in humanity, she is able to understand man in his vocation and aspirations, in his limits and misgivings, in his rights and duties, and to speak a word of life that reverberates in the historical and social circumstances of human existence. Enriching and permeating society with the Gospel. With her social teaching the Church seeks to proclaim the Gospel and make it present in the complex network of social relations.
It is not simply a matter of reaching out to man in society — man as the recipient of the proclamation of the Gospel — but of enriching and permeating society itself with the Gospel . For the Church, therefore, tending to the needs of man means that she also involves society in her missionary and salvific work. The way people live together in society often determines the quality of life and therefore the conditions in which every man and woman understand themselves and make decisions concerning themselves and their vocation. For this reason, the Church is not indifferent to what is decided, brought about or experienced in society; she is attentive to the moral quality — that is, the authentically human and humanizing aspects — of social life.
Society — and with it, politics, the economy, labour, law, culture — is not simply a secular and worldly reality, and therefore outside or foreign to the message and economy of salvation. Society in fact, with all that is accomplished within it, concerns man. By means of her social doctrine, the Church takes on the task of proclaiming what the Lord has entrusted to her. She makes the message of the freedom and redemption wrought by Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, present in human history. As the Gospel reverberates by means of the Church in the today of men and women, this social doctrine is a word that brings freedom.
This means that it has the effectiveness of truth and grace that comes from the Spirit of God, who penetrates hearts, predisposing them to thoughts and designs of love, justice, freedom and peace. Evangelizing the social sector, then, means infusing into the human heart the power of meaning and freedom found in the Gospel, in order to promote a society befitting mankind because it befits Christ: it means building a city of man that is more human because it is in greater conformity with the Kingdom of God.
With her social doctrine not only does the Church not stray from her mission but she is rigorously faithful to it. The redemption wrought by Christ and entrusted to the saving mission of the Church is certainly of the supernatural order. This dimension is not a delimitation of salvation but rather an integral expression of it.
The supernatural is not to be understood as an entity or a place that begins where the natural ends, but as the raising of the natural to a higher plane. In this way nothing of the created or the human order is foreign to or excluded from the supernatural or theological order of faith and grace, rather it is found within it, taken on and elevated by it. Rom — recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. As this link was broken in the man Adam, so in the Man Christ it was reforged cf. Redemption begins with the Incarnation, by which the Son of God takes on all that is human, except sin, according to the solidarity established by the wisdom of the Divine Creator, and embraces everything in his gift of redeeming Love.
Man is touched by this Love in the fullness of his being: a being that is corporeal and spiritual, that is in a solidary relationship with others. The whole man — not a detached soul or a being closed within its own individuality, but a person and a society of persons — is involved in the salvific economy of the Gospel.
This is especially true in times such as the present, marked by increasing interdependence and globalization of social issues. Social doctrine, evangelization and human promotion. The Church's social doctrine is an integral part of her evangelizing ministry. Nothing that concerns the community of men and women — situations and problems regarding justice, freedom, development, relations between peoples, peace — is foreign to evangelization, and evangelization would be incomplete if it did not take into account the mutual demands continually made by the Gospel and by the concrete, personal and social life of man.
They also include links in the theological order, since one cannot disassociate the plan of creation from the plan of Redemption. The latter plan touches the very concrete situations of injustice to be combated and of justice to be restored. They include links of the eminently evangelical order, which is that of charity: how in fact can one proclaim the new commandment without promoting in justice and in peace the true, authentic advancement of man?
Understood in this way, this social doctrine is a distinctive way for the Church to carry out her ministry of the Word and her prophetic role. This is a ministry that stems not only from proclamation but also from witness. This means that the Church does not intervene in technical questions with her social doctrine, nor does she propose or establish systems or models of social organization. This is not part of the mission entrusted to her by Christ. The Church's competence comes from the Gospel: from the message that sets man free, the message proclaimed and borne witness to by the Son of God made man.
A. Situational Analysis
This is her primary and sole purpose. There is no intention to usurp or invade the duties of others or to neglect her own; nor is there any thought of pursuing objectives that are foreign to her mission. This mission serves to give an overall shape to the Church's right and at the same time her duty to develop a social doctrine of her own and to influence society and societal structures with it by means of the responsibility and tasks to which it gives rise.
The Church has the right to be a teacher for mankind, a teacher of the truth of faith: the truth not only of dogmas but also of the morals whose source lies in human nature itself and in the Gospel . The word of the Gospel, in fact, is not only to be heard but is also to be observed and put into practice cf. Mt ; Lk ; Jn ,; Jas Consistency in behaviour shows what one truly believes and is not limited only to things strictly church-related or spiritual but involves men and women in the entirety of their life experience and in the context of all their responsibilities.
However worldly these responsibilities may be, their subject remains man, that is, the human being whom God calls, by means of the Church, to participate in his gift of salvation. Men and women must respond to the gift of salvation not with a partial, abstract or merely verbal acceptance, but with the whole of their lives — in every relationship that defines life — so as not to neglect anything, leaving it in a profane and worldly realm where it is irrelevant or foreign to salvation.
For this reason the Church's social doctrine is not a privilege for her, nor a digression, a convenience or interference: it is her right to proclaim the Gospel in the context of society , to make the liberating word of the Gospel resound in the complex worlds of production, labour, business, finance, trade, politics, law, culture, social communications, where men and women live.
The warning that St. Knowledge illuminated by faith. The Church's social doctrine was not initially thought of as an organic system but was formed over the course of time, through the numerous interventions of the Magisterium on social issues. The fact that it came about in this manner makes it understandable that certain changes may have taken place with regard to its nature, method and epistemological structure. It cannot be defined according to socio-economic parameters.
It is not an ideological or pragmatic system intended to define and generate economic, political and social relationships, but is a category unto itself. In fact, this social doctrine reflects three levels of theological-moral teaching: the foundational level of motivations; the directive level of norms for life in society; the deliberative level of consciences, called to mediate objective and general norms in concrete and particular social situations.
These three levels implicitly define also the proper method and specific epistemological structure of the social doctrine of the Church. The Church's social doctrine finds its essential foundation in biblical revelation and in the tradition of the Church. From this source, which comes from above, it draws inspiration and light to understand, judge and guide human experience and history. Before anything else and above everything else is God's plan for the created world and, in particular, for the life and destiny of men and women, called to Trinitarian communion.
Faith, which receives the divine word and puts it into practice, effectively interacts with reason. The understanding of faith, especially faith leading to practical action, is structured by reason and makes use of every contribution that reason has to offer. Faith and reason represent the two cognitive paths of the Church's social doctrine: Revelation and human nature.
This understanding of faith includes reason, by means of which — insofar as possible — it unravels and comprehends revealed truth and integrates it with the truth of human nature, found in the divine plan expressed in creation. This is the integral truth of the human person as a spiritual and corporeal being, in relationship with God, with other human beings and with other creatures. Being centred on the mystery of Christ, moreover, does not weaken or exclude the role of reason and hence does not deprive the Church's social doctrine of rationality or, therefore, of universal applicability.
Since the mystery of Christ illuminates the mystery of man, it gives fullness of meaning to human dignity and to the ethical requirements which defend it. The Church's social doctrine is knowledge enlightened by faith, which, as such, is the expression of a greater capacity for knowledge. It explains to all people the truths that it affirms and the duties that it demands; it can be accepted and shared by all. In friendly dialogue with all branches of knowledge. The Church's social doctrine avails itself of contributions from all branches of knowledge, whatever their source, and has an important interdisciplinary dimension.
The social doctrine makes use of the significant contributions of philosophy as well as the descriptive contributions of the human sciences. Above all, the contribution of philosophy is essential. This contribution has already been seen in the appeal to human nature as a source and to reason as the cognitive path of faith itself. By means of reason, the Church's social doctrine espouses philosophy in its own internal logic, in other words, in the argumentation that is proper to it.
Affirming that the Church's social doctrine is part of theology rather than philosophy does not imply a disowning or underestimation of the role or contribution of philosophy. In fact, philosophy is a suitable and indispensable instrument for arriving at a correct understanding of the basic concepts of the Church's social doctrine , concepts such as the person, society, freedom, conscience, ethics, law, justice, the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, the State.
This understanding is such that it inspires harmonious living in society. It is philosophy once more that shows the reasonableness and acceptability of shining the light of the Gospel on society, and that inspires in every mind and conscience openness and assent to the truth. A significant contribution to the Church's social doctrine comes also from human sciences and the social sciences.
In view of that particular part of the truth that it may reveal, no branch of knowledge is excluded. The Church recognizes and receives everything that contributes to the understanding of man in the ever broader, more fluid and more complex net work of his social relationships. She is aware of the fact that a profound understanding of man does not come from theology alone, without the contributions of many branches of knowledge to which theology itself refers. This attentive and constant openness to other branches of knowledge makes the Church's social doctrine reliable, concrete and relevant.
Thanks to the sciences, the Church can gain a more precise understanding of man in society, speak to the men and women of her own day in a more convincing manner and more effectively fulfil her task of incarnating in the conscience and social responsibility of our time, the word of God and the faith from which social doctrine flows. An expression of the Church's ministry of teaching. The social doctrine belongs to the Church because the Church is the subject that formulates it, disseminates it and teaches it.
It is not a prerogative of a certain component of the ecclesial body but of the entire community; it is the expression of the way that the Church understands society and of her position regarding social structures and changes. The whole of the Church community — priests, religious and laity — participates in the formulation of this social doctrine, each according to the different tasks, charisms and ministries found within her. The Church's social doctrine is not only the thought or work of qualified persons, but is the thought of the Church, insofar as it is the work of the Magisterium, which teaches with the authority that Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors: the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.
In the Church's social doctrine the Magisterium is at work in all its various components and expressions. Of primary importance is the universal Magisterium of the Pope and the Council: this is the Magisterium that determines the direction and gives marks of the development of this social doctrine. This doctrine in turn is integrated into the Magisterium of the Bishops who, in the concrete and particular situations of the many different local circumstances, give precise definition to this teaching, translating it and putting it into practice.
The social teaching of the Bishops offers valid contributions and impetus to the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff. In this way, there is a circulating at work that in fact expresses the collegiality of the Church's Pastors united to the Pope in the Church's social teaching. The doctrinal body that emerges includes and integrates in this fashion the universal teaching of the Popes and the particular teaching of the Bishops. Insofar as it is part of the Church's moral teaching, the Church's social doctrine has the same dignity and authority as her moral teaching.
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It is authentic Magisterium , which obligates the faithful to adhere to it. The doctrinal weight of the different teachings and the assent required are determined by the nature of the particular teachings, by their level of independence from contingent and variable elements, and by the frequency with which they are invoked. For a society reconciled in justice and love. The object of the Church's social doctrine is essentially the same that constitutes the reason for its existence: the human person called to salvation, and as such entrusted by Christ to the Church's care and responsibility .
By means of her social doctrine, the Church shows her concern for human life in society, aware that the quality of social life — that is, of the relationships of justice and love that form the fabric of society — depends in a decisive manner on the protection and promotion of the human person, for whom every community comes into existence. In fact, at play in society are the dignity and rights of the person, and peace in the relationships between persons and between communities of persons. These are goods that the social community must pursue and guarantee.
In this perspective, the Church's social doctrine has the task of proclamation , but also of denunciation. This is done not only on the level of principles but also in practice. The Church's social doctrine, in fact, offers not only meaning, value and criteria of judgment, but also the norms and directives of action that arise from these.
With her social doctrine the Church does not attempt to structure or organize society, but to appeal to, guide and form consciences. This social doctrine also entails a duty to denounce , when sin is present: the sin of injustice and violence that in different ways moves through society and is embodied in it. By denunciation, the Church's social doctrine becomes judge and defender of unrecognized and violated rights, especially those of the poor, the least and the weak. The more these rights are ignored or trampled, the greater becomes the extent of violence and injustice, involving entire categories of people and large geographical areas of the world, thus giving rise to social questions , that is, to abuses and imbalances that lead to social upheaval.
A large part of the Church's social teaching is solicited and determined by important social questions, to which social justice is the proper answer. The intent of the Church's social doctrine is of the religious and moral order . A message for the sons and daughters of the Church and for humanity. The first recipient of the Church's social doctrine is the Church community in its entire membership, because everyone has social responsibilities that must be fulfilled.
The conscience is called by this social teaching to recognize and fulfil the obligations of justice and charity in society. This doctrine is a light of moral truth that inspires appropriate responses according to the vocation and ministry of each Christian. In the tasks of evangelization, that is to say, of teaching, catechesis and formation that the Church's social doctrine inspires, it is addressed to every Christian, each according to the competence, charisms, office and mission of proclamation that is proper to each one.
This social doctrine implies as well responsibilities regarding the building, organization and functioning of society, that is to say, political, economic and administrative obligations — obligations of a secular nature — which belong to the lay faithful, not to priests or religious. These responsibilities belong to the laity in a distinctive manner, by reason of the secular condition of their state of life, and of the secular nature of their vocation. By fulfilling these responsibilities, the lay faithful put the Church's social teaching into action and thus fulfil the Church's secular mission.
Besides being destined primarily and specifically to the sons and daughters of the Church, her social doctrine also has a universal destination. The light of the Gospel that the Church's social doctrine shines on society illuminates all men and women, and every conscience and mind is in a position to grasp the human depths of meaning and values expressed in it and the potential of humanity and humanization contained in its norms of action.
It is to all people — in the name of mankind, of human dignity which is one and unique, and of humanity's care and promotion of society — to everyone in the name of the one God, Creator and ultimate end of man, that the Church's social doctrine is addressed. This social doctrine is a teaching explicitly addressed to all people of good will , and in fact is heard by members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, by followers of other religious traditions and by people who belong to no religious group.
Guided by the perennial light of the Gospel and ever attentive to evolution of society, the Church's social doctrine is characterized by continuity and renewal . It shows above all the continuity of a teaching that refers to the universal values drawn from Revelation and human nature. This is the foundational and permanent nucleus of the Church's social doctrine, by which it moves through history without being conditioned by history or running the risk of fading away.
On the other hand, in its constant turning to history and in engaging the events taking place, the Church's social doctrine shows a capacity for continuous renewal. Standing firm in its principles does not make it a rigid teaching system, but a Magisterium capable of opening itself to new things , without having its nature altered by them. Faith does not presume to confine changeable social and political realities within a closed framework. Rather, the contrary is true: faith is the leaven of innovation and creativity.
Mother and Teacher, the Church does not close herself off nor retreat within herself but is always open, reaching out to and turned towards man, whose destiny of salvation is her reason for being. She is in the midst of men and women as the living icon of the Good Shepherd, who goes in search of and finds man where he is, in the existential and historical circumstances of his life. It is there that the Church becomes for man a point of contact with the Gospel, with the message of liberation and reconciliation, of justice and peace.
The beginning of a new path. The Church's concern for social matters certainly did not begin with that document, for the Church has never failed to show interest in society. Nonetheless, the Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum marks the beginning of a new path. Grafting itself onto a tradition hundreds of years old, it signals a new beginning and a singular development of the Church's teaching in the area of social matters. In her continuous attention to men and women living in society, the Church has accumulated a rich doctrinal heritage.
This has its roots in Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels and the apostolic writings, and takes on shape and body beginning from the Fathers of the Church and the great Doctors of the Middle Ages, constituting a doctrine in which, even without explicit and direct Magisterial pronouncements, the Church gradually came to recognize her competence.
In the nineteenth century, events of an economic nature produced a dramatic social, political and cultural impact. Events connected with the Industrial Revolution profoundly changed centuries-old societal structures, raising serious problems of justice and posing the first great social question — the labour question — prompted by the conflict between capital and labour.
A new discernment of the situation was needed, a discernment capable of finding appropriate solutions to unfamiliar and unexplored problems. From Rerum Novarum to our own day. This Encyclical examines the condition of salaried workers, which was particularly distressing for industrial labourers who languished in inhumane misery.
The labour question is dealt with according to its true dimensions. It is explored in all its social and political expressions so that a proper evaluation may be made in the light of the doctrinal principles founded on Revelation and on natural law and morality. Rerum Novarum became the document inspiring Christian activity in the social sphere and the point of reference for this activity .
The Encyclical's central theme is the just ordering of society, in view of which there is the obligation to identify criteria of judgment that will help to evaluate existing socio-political systems and to suggest lines of action for their appropriate transformation. The principles affirmed by Pope Leo XIII would be taken up again and studied more deeply in successive social encyclicals. The whole of the Church's social doctrine can be seen as an updating, a deeper analysis and an expansion of the original nucleus of principles presented in Rerum Novarum.
At the beginning of the s, following the grave economic crisis of , Pope Pius XI published the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno , commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. The Pope reread the past in the light of the economic and social situation in which the expansion of the influence of financial groups, both nationally and internationally, was added to the effects of industrialization.
It was the post-war period, during which totalitarian regimes were being imposed in Europe even as the class struggle was becoming more bitter. The Encyclical warns about the failure to respect the freedom to form associations and stresses the principles of solidarity and cooperation in order to overcome social contradictions. The relationships between capital and labour must be characterized by cooperation. Quadragesimo Anno confirms the principle that salaries should be proportional not only to the needs of the worker but also to those of the worker's family.
The State, in its relations with the private sector, should apply the principle of subsidiarity , a principle that will become a permanent element of the Church's social doctrine. The Encyclical rejects liberalism, understood as unlimited competition between economic forces, and reconfirms the value of private property, recalling its social function. Pope Pius XI did not fail to raise his voice against the totalitarian regimes that were being imposed in Europe during his pontificate.
Already on 29 June he had protested against the abuse of power by the totalitarian fascist regime in Italy with the Encyclical Non Abbiamo Bisogno . The text of Mit Brennender Sorge was read from the pulpit of every Catholic Church in Germany, after having been distributed in the greatest of secrecy. The Encyclical came out after years of abuse and violence, and it had been expressly requested from Pope Pius XI by the German Bishops after the Reich had implemented ever more coercive and repressive measures in , particularly with regard to young people, who were required to enrol as members of the Hitler Youth Movement.
The Pope spoke directly to priests, religious and lay faithful, giving them encouragement and calling them to resistance until such time that a true peace between Church and State would be restored. In the Christmas Radio Messages of Pope Pius XII, together with other important interventions in social matters, Magisterial reflection on a new social order guided by morality and law, and focusing on justice and peace, become deeper.
His pontificate covered the terrible years of the Second World War and the difficult years of reconstruction. He published no social encyclicals but in many different contexts he constantly showed his concern for the international order, which had been badly shaken.
One of the characteristics of Pope Pius XII's interventions is the importance he gave to the relationship between morality and law. He insisted on the notion of natural law as the soul of the system to be established on both the national and the international levels. Another important aspect of Pope Pius XII's teaching was his attention to the professional and business classes, called to work together in a special way for the attainment of the common good. The s bring promising prospects: recovery after the devastation of the war, the beginning of decolonization, and the first timid signs of a thaw in the relations between the American and Soviet blocs.
The social question is becoming universal and involves all countries : together with the labour question and the Industrial Revolution, there come to the fore problems of agriculture, of developing regions, of increasing populations, and those concerning the need for global economic cooperation. Inequalities that in the past were experienced within nations are now becoming international and make the dramatic situation of the Third World ever more evident. The key words in the Encyclical are community and socialization : the Church is called in truth, justice and love to cooperate in building with all men and women an authentic communion.
In this way economic growth will not be limited to satisfying men's needs, but it will also promote their dignity. Moreover, Pacem in Terris contains one of the first in-depth reflections on rights on the part of the Church; it is the Encyclical of peace and human dignity. It continues and completes the discussion presented in Mater et Magistra , and, continuing in the direction indicated by Pope Leo XIII, it emphasizes the importance of the cooperation of all men and women. On the tenth anniversary of Pacem in Terris , Cardinal Maurice Roy, the President of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, sent Pope Paul VI a letter together with a document with a series of reflections on the different possibilities afforded by the teaching contained in Pope John XXIII's Encyclical for shedding light on the new problems connected with the promotion of peace.
The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes  of the Second Vatican Council is a significant response of the Church to the expectations of the contemporary world. Gaudium et Spes presents in a systematic manner the themes of culture, of economic and social life, of marriage and the family, of the political community, of peace and the community of peoples, in the light of a Christian anthropological outlook and of the Church's mission. Another very important document of the Second Vatican Council in the corpus of the Church's social doctrine is the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae , in which the right to religious freedom is clearly proclaimed.
The document presents the theme in two chapters. The first, of a general character, affirms that religious freedom is based on the dignity of the human person and that it must be sanctioned as a civil right in the legal order of society. The second chapter deals with the theme in the light of Revelation and clarifies its pastoral implications, pointing out that it is a right that concerns not only people as individuals but also the different communities of people. This same Pontiff started the tradition of writing annual Messages that deal with the theme chosen for each World Day of Peace.
These Messages expand and enrich the corpus of the Church's social doctrine. At the beginning of the s, in a climate of turbulence and strong ideological controversy, Pope Paul VI returns to the social teaching of Pope Leo XIII and updates it, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum , with his Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens .