Sad to say, our contemporary world is a broken place. Whether one explores the world of national politics, or travels along the United States-Mexico border, or visits the large number of prisons in our country, the cracks and fissures of social stress seem multiplied and slowly creeping out in every direction. Racial discrimination continues to be a stain on our national consciousness. Not only are guns everywhere, but they are used constantly and with lethal consequences for very innocent people. The fear only generates more danger and then still more fear. So much social healing needs to be done these days.
There was a time when the famed Statue of Liberty, which stood in the New York harbor and greeted my ancestors from Slovakia sometime around 1900 A.D., truly signaled a welcome. Today it’s a controverted wall which seems to have become the primary symbol of our attitude toward to those outside our boundaries. In the process, we have become weaker. So much social healing needs to be done these days.
When my ancestors arrived at Ellis Island some 120 years ago, the only question was if they were in good health and therefore able to work. They came to the Midwest and either farmed or took foundry work no one else was willing to do. One settled in the farmlands of lower Michigan; the other quickly bought a home in Racine, and Grandma took in boarders to help pay the family bills and reduce the mortgage.
Unfortunately, our initial American hospitality has been replaced by suspicion, fear and hostility. So much social healing needs to be done these days.
In recent years, we Catholics have been reminded often that the Church doesn’t have a mission but rather the Mission has a Church, which is called to be God’s instrument for healing, unifying and transforming our world. It may well be that the genius of our Catholicism, with its global organization of parishes into dioceses and then into a worldwide communion, has a distinct advantage in this task.
Over the decades, religious orders of women and men have seen the needs of those immigrants, organized themselves for service and helped to heal the world’s wounds. The Second Vatican Council insisted that all the baptized share that call to heal and help. So much needs to be done these days, generation after generation, and community by community. The call remains as vital as ever.
Studies in the growth of early Christianity indicate that it was in ancient urban areas that faith in Jesus initially flourished. Jesus himself began his work in Capernaum, an ancient crossroads of commerce and travel. Each of St Paul’s early communities, though initially small in number, was in one of the major urban centers of his day, and it was to those cities that he wrote his inspired letters. The desperately hungry and those troubled by physical illnesses were objects of extraordinary Christian charity and care. In those days, and in ours, the true Church of Jesus is often most visible and most active where the needs are most pressing.
Heralding God’s Good News, as the disciples were originally commanded, was to teach and baptize with sacraments that united and transformed (Matthew 28:19f). Division and any false sense of the superiority of any single group over others is antithetical to the Mission of Jesus and the Church founded upon him. So much social healing needs to be done these days. It is not only our task, but truly the work of God. So much needs to be done.
We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.