This School of Love
“…take my soul into your most sacred wound, so that in this school of love, I may learn to make a return of love to God, who has given me such wondrous proofs of his love.”
See previous weeks’ reflections under the various headings on the left side of the Dehonian Spirituality page or use the drop-down menu at the top of this page under “Dehonian Spirituality.”
August 29, 2014
The most striking fact concerning the condition of the working class is that workers are, for the most part, experiencing conditions of misfortune and unearned misery, as Pope Leo XIII says. Despite a certain amount of superficial progress, the worker is, in many places, less happy than formerly; his needs have grown more than his resources have, if in fact, the latter have not diminished.
At the same time, the workers see immense wealth accumulating in a small number of hands; and Leo XIII does not hesitate to list among the present evils “the monopoly of work and of the productiveness of commerce, which has been acquired by a small number of the wealthy who thereby impose an almost servile yoke upon the working class” [Rerum novarum].
This imbalance leads to poverty with its inevitable consequences: ignorance, vice, temptations to crime, illnesses. Thus, things are going badly. But wealth is not something which is removed from human control like the rain and the rays of the sun. Money circulates by passing through human hands, and people have a moral experience regulated by higher laws. The effect of wealth is felt through the operation of institutions established by men.
Thus the actions of individuals are involved. If things are going badly, it is in large part because people are behaving badly. If each person who earns, accumulates, and distributes wealth were to fulfill his duties of justice and charity towards others, then things would be ideal. On the other hand, if the same people ignore their duties towards their fellow men and if public laws promote such behavior or make social justice almost impossible, then things will go badly, and from bad to worse. The question of wealth is thus dependent on the question of morality.
Renowned politicians and sages have asserted that the social question is insolvable. Such a theory is very convenient because it accords to those who accept it, ispo facto, the right to do nothing. It exempts them from a difficult and costly responsibility.
No! Those laws are not inevitable. There is a force within Christian morality which can prevent their evil effects; and the free will which has established evil institutions can, through different laws, restore order, peace, and fraternal harmony to human relationships.
“Introduction: The Social Question,” Christian Social Manual
Identifying people of prayer has less to do with watching them pray than with noticing how they live their lives. The Gospel of Luke delights in telling us that Jesus prayed often [after his baptism (3:21); withdrawing from the crowds to a deserted place (5:16); spending the night on the mountain (6:12); praying alone with his disciples near (9:18, 11:1) and with Peter, James, and John on the mountain (9:28-29)]. But Luke shows Jesus praying only on the Mount of Olives [22:39-46]. In the carved image to the right, we glimpse simultaneously Jesus at prayer and how his prayer informed his living.
Although lifting one’s hands was a traditional gesture for prayer, the stretch of his neck as far back as it could go, and his mouth and eyes wide open suggest the intensity of Jesus’ prayer. The specter of crucifixion—hanging on the cross by those same praying hands, his mouth gasping for air, and his eyes blurred in the delirium of pain—is clearly the content of Jesus’ prayer. Behind him, disciples nod off to sleep, their bodies relaxed and indifferent.
At least since Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, the struggle to remain faithful must have consumed his prayer time. Impelled by love to make his Father known, Jesus met with only a modicum of success. Misunderstanding, maliciousness, and the overwhelming crush of need seemed to mock his wisdom, his gentleness, and his inclusivity. The haunting question, “What difference does it make?” blasted in his ears as Jesus prayed on the night before he was executed.
Jesus’ prayer of oblation to his Father, “Not my will, but yours be done,” could never hope to answer satisfactorily the question of significance. It did, however, reconfirm a lifetime relationship of love, trust, and integrity. For those who work for social justice, this image of Jesus at prayer offers encouragement in the face of seeming futility. Most likely, people will never be privy to an activist’s prayer, but they will notice a loving approach to life that is willing to show up, speak up, and let go of the consequences.
“Work must be an escape from poverty, not another version of it” [A Place at the Table, A Pastoral Reflection of the US Catholic Bishops, November 2002]. What do you think this quote means? Whom do you know, either personally or through the media, whose work is a form of poverty?
“On this Labor Day, let us renew our commitment to promote the dignity of the human person through work that is honorable, pays just wages, and recognizes the God-given dignity of the working person” [Labor Day Statement, 2013, US Conference of Catholic Bishops]. Interfaith Worker Justice has been a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the United States since 1996. Go to www.iwj.org/issues to find information and suggested actions on issues such as wage theft, minimum wage, and the right to organize. Ask yourself what God might be inviting you to do to promote the dignity of the working person.
This year, Labor Day falls on September 1. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer all laborers and those who promote the rights of workers.
Jesus calls all his followers to help build an earthly city where his justice reigns. Use the following Prayer of Reparation, adapted from the prayer book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, to recommit yourself to this task.
in the face of the human struggle for liberation,
you give us your love
through the Heart of Christ.
By breathing the Spirit into us,
Christ gives us the power to see
that all things are possible.
Your Spirit moves our hearts to love,
to seek your reign and its justice,
and to build an earthly city
where all may live in harmony.
today we want to welcome your Holy Spirit.
Help us bear witness to your passionate love
through the generosity of our life.
May we never tire of building a new humanity in Christ.