Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Where do we begin?

We can sometimes think that the church's focus on respect life and catholic social teaching are somehow new, as if all the early church did was pray and build churches. We Americans look at the non-establishment clause in the Constitution as if it were a blueprint for life: keep you politics in one box, your religion in another. We can forget the basic human virtue of integrity means living one unified life.

The first reading today for the Feast of the Visitation, with it's reference to the Lord being in our midst reminds us that we believe that God became incarnate not at his birth, but at his conception. While he was still in the womb he was fully God in our midst.

The gospel links that presence of God with the social mission of the Church. When we talk about the social teaching of the Church, we tend to start with Leo XIII and Rerum Novarum. A more apt starting point is found in today's gospel and the Canticle of Mary:

...He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly....
He has filled the hungry with good thing, while the rich he has sent away empty.

Mary announces to us even before Jesus is born, that the mission of the Church will be more than simply worshiping God. We are told to rejoice in today's readings, because the Incarnation, has radically transformed and elevated the dignity of human life and we are called to acknowledge that dignity always and everywhere, from the way we speak to one another to the policies we enact in our various communities. This is not some modern concern of the church, but was there before the church was born.