Gospel demands revolution of love

September 19, 2005

Read: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 28-33, 204-208

The Christian vocation is quite simply the vocation to love.

The Trinity itself is a communion of infinite love. Because of that love, God created humanity and then sent the Son to reveal to us the fullness of that love.

To be fully human means to be like God. It means to love God and to love our brothers and sisters. “If God so loves us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).

Love, however, is an easy word to say and a difficult one to live out. Love is not mere sentiment – although feelings can often lead people to eventually with the fidelity and self-sacrificing love Jesus showed.

Jesus described his own ministry, his own way of loving in terms of the jubilee: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

This jubilee is what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church describes as the continuous renewal of society based on the principles of mercy and the equal dignity of all.

So we have to ask where is love when the average European cow receives US$2.20 a day in subsidies and other aid while 2.8 billion people live on less than US$2 a day. Where is love when the world’s 500 billionaires possess as much wealth as 57 per cent of the world’s population?

In the face of such injustice is it not too easy, too pat to say, “All you need is love”?

Yes and no. Yes, if you understand love as a feeling or as discrete actions that one can turn on and off. No, if you understand love as a lifelong everyday commitment to embracing God’s love and taking steps to make that love real for one’s fellow men and women.

In his 1995 book-length interview, Salt of the Earth, Joseph Ratzinger said, “History as a whole is the struggle between love and the inability to love, between love and the refusal to love.”

For an individual to move from an inability to love to actually loving is a tortuous transformation. It cannot be done without the help of God’s grace. For a whole society to move from the inability to love to actually loving is a monumental change. It means an agreement that everyone will stop taking what they can get for themselves to everyone giving of themselves to the point where everyone else can live with dignity. Not only must personal attitudes change, so must social structures.

The Gospel demands this sort of revolution of love. It demands a global shift from consumerism to prayer and social action.

Changing the power structures of the global economy is not enough – although that is a huge task in itself. To focus on power alone will merely replace one form of injustice with another. People, with their inclination to selfishness, will have to be coerced to fit into the new economy of equality.

True justice demands, at root, a transformation of attitudes. It demands a real solidarity between the powerful and the powerless.

This can only happen if we take God seriously as the Creator of all that is and see the goal of our lives as to give thanks. Giving thanks includes meditating on God’s word and Jesus’ example, and praising God for his goodness. It also means recognizing that everything we have is gift and needs to be shared.

When we take to heart the facts that God is love and that everything is a gift, we will be transformed. When society as a whole recognizes this, it too will be transformed. Jesus’ mission to bring the jubilee will be wrought through human hands.

(Third in a series of articles)