Sermon on the Mount 2010

From our brothers at St. Martin’s —

Men of Emmaus,

Mark your calendars and try to join us on Saturday, May 22nd. Fr. Avelino will lead the Men of Emmaus to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain, celebrate Mass and continue his reflection on Sacred Scripture, focusing on the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

MoE Meeting on the Mount – Saturday, May 22nd –


8:30am
Congregate at the pavilion parking lot (west overlook) at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

8:45am Hike to the top & set-up for Mass

9:15am Mass (at the summit)

10:00am Reflection on the early chapters of Genesis.

11:30am Final blessing, then leave.

Should we have inclement weather, we will stay at the pavilion at the parking lot at the top (west view overlook) of the mountain.

You may go directly to Sugarloaf Mt. from your house or, if you would like to carpool up, we can arrange for cars to leave from St. Martin/St. Francis at 8:00 a.m.

 

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“For I Know The Plans I Have For You, Says The Lord” — The Catholic Social Teaching Series Continues

One of my favorite Scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Although I have always taken the verse as a personal promise, that is not really its context. It was a promise, among so many others, of beattitude to the exiled people of Israel for living the covenant. Here, the promise is nothing less than to live forever as a people in union with God Himself.

This, of course, is just one snippet of salvation history. As Scripture presents it, Israel did not just come into being; Israel was a chosen people, a people brought together for a purpose. Its laws were given by the Divine Lawgiver. In other words, God had a plan for it.

Does God have a plan for the modern social order? The answer seems to be plainly “yes.” “The purpose of the Church’s social teaching is to present to men God’s plan for secular reality.” This sentence is both obvious and quite at odds with modern thinking: on the one hand, I can think of no reason that God would have a plan for us as individuals, but no plan for the “secular reality” that we all inhabit and that derives from our separate acts. The implications are radical: typically, society is thought of as an end in itself that arises from solely from human choice; the social arrangements that exist are just how we choose to live together now and reflect current, contingent values. But if my individual moral choices are good or bad depending on the degree to which they reflect God’s will, then why not the choices we make together as a society?

All of this makes me nervous because it seems to lead to clericalism or theocracy. After all, if the Magisterium knows, based on reflection guided by the Holy Spirit, God’s plan for the social order, why not just turn it over to them? I fully share the qualms of secular liberals in this regard. Yet, as a Catholic attempting to be faithful, I can’t fully agree with them, especially when they embrace moral relativism as their answer to this issue.

Also, what does “plan” mean? It could mean “plan” in terms of a blueprint — markings on a page that channel or set boundaries for human social choices or it could mean direct intervention to secure certain ‘goods’ that God deems it necessary for us to have or maybe both.

The Second Vatican Council seems to have provided a satsfying answer to these questions. It seems that when a person acts in accordance with God’s will for him- or herself, he or she naturally brings about the genuine good of the human race. This seems to be what Guadium et Spes meant when it said (para. 35):

Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it harmonize with the genuine good of the human race, and that it allow men as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it.

But there is also an obligation to bring about “the most just society possible” How she does so, while recognizing the legitimate demands of a pluralistic society is through teaching and the attempt to foster a spiritual re-awakening:

She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply. Deus Caritas Est, para 28.

So where does this leave me? First, if God has a plan — a vision of the ideal — just — social order, I need to think about what that would be in the particular contexts. Second, a just social order appears to be organic in the sense that it flows primarily from the actions of individual people seeking to fulfill God’s plan in their lives. Finally, God’s will involves bringing about social change, not through anti-pluralistic, coercive means, but through awakening souls to God’s love and our best understanding of the principles of charity to specific problems.