Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day and Remembering, Forgetting Justice in the World

I hated tests while I was in school.

Tests help remember.

And, reminding, Seneca, said, is more important than new information.

Yet, like benchmarks, and keeping one's eye on the prize in the trek through life, students and disciples need to be tested to be reminded later, less they fail to recall lessons learned.

After all, on this Thanksgiving Day proclaimed during the Civil War in 1863 while President Abraham Lincoln was severely tested, Americans need to be formed and prepared by way of education.

It helps to be equipped to contribute and serve well as a resident of a young nation that has known its share of birthpangs.

Forty years ago, an examination of conscience, called, Justice in the World, was issued by the world's Catholic bishops.

They wrote:

"Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformaton of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the church's mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation."

Ed Rowe, a pastor at Central Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, always asks:

"Whatever happened to social justice in the Catholic Church?"

That exam question always stirs within me to get moving and act more justly, love more tenderly and walk more humbly with God, as the prophet Micah shouted in the Old Testament.

Whatever happened to this document?

In the church's proud Catholic social teaching on the dignity of the worker from Pope Leo the XIII in 1892 up to the present day advocates of it, the storied living out of it matters most.

"Justice in the World" depicts God as liberator of the poor and oppressed and Jesus as preacher of justice for the poor in the sacred scriptures.

"Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one's neighbor," this
historic piece notes.

A civilizaton of love linked to justice was encouraged by Pope Paul VI. This was further enunciated by Pope Benedict XVI in two encyclicals on love and political charity.

An inner examination of conscience in church life is invited in "Justice in the World."

"While the church is bound to give witness to justice, it recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes."

Respect and promotion of rights within the church are empahsized with care for temporal goods and urging "sparingness" in one's lifestyle, including bishops, priests and religious.

Has "Justice in the World" been forgotten four decades later?


Downgrading of the role of the synod of bishops in church governance may be a reason this document seems to have gone the way of dinasaurs showcased in museums. In turn, collegiality is a sore subject for some who have been challenged to include all levels of church life in rendering decisions.

In lean and mean times like these, reminders about justice, and, an examination of conscience may help in the abundance this nation still has this Thanksgiving Day.

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