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Can we find a place for Christ in society after the riots?

Twenty-first Sunday of Lent. Is 22:19-23; Ps 138; Rm 11:33-36; Mt 16:13-20

By on Thursday, 18 August 2011

The recent violent unrest on the streets of our cities has raised many disturbing questions. The initial reactions of fear and outrage fill the headlines at the moment. The months and years ahead must be given to the rediscovery of a vision that will bring healing to our society.

The encounter between Jesus and his disciples at Caesarea Philippi set out such a vision. When he began to question his disciples Jesus had been with his disciples for some time. They had been instructed at the Sermon on the Mount and had witnessed the healing presence of Jesus. They had glimpsed something that could transform a broken world. The time had come to commit themselves to the hope that was stirring in their hearts.

Jesus began to probe their longings for a better world with a general question: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” At first, the disciples did not speak for themselves. Instead, they escaped into the general expectation that Jesus had aroused among the populace. “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These responses demonstrated that society at the time of Jesus, no less than in our own time, was longing for answers. As we long for the healing of our society, so they longed for another John the Baptist, another Elijah or Jeremiah. The long tradition of the Old Testament had brought them to believe that God himself, through his promised Messiah, would bring redemption to a sinful world. There was widespread expectation, but without the commitment of faith such expectation would come to nothing. Jesus therefore pressed for a more personal commitment: “But you, who do you say that I am?”

Peter’s response closed the gap between expectation and commitment: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

In describing Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, Peter was committing himself, and his generation’s longing for salvation, to the person of Jesus. Confronted with the present crisis in our own society, we, as Christians, might well look at the exchange between Peter and Jesus with fresh eyes. Many questions will be asked in the months ahead, and many solutions will be offered. Expectation alone, without the deep and personal commitment of all involved, will solve nothing. Peter’s great act of faith took him beyond the general expectation. In a world that could not save itself he committed himself and his life to the vision proclaimed by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount.

We are all called to play our part in the healing of our society. The issues are undoubtedly complex, and there will be many competing voices in the debate. As this process begins, we, with Peter, are invited to profess where we stand. Jesus asked Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” Let us ask ourselves what place we give to Christ in our vision for a future society. Confronted with a direct question, Peter committed himself. Our Christian voice will bring little to the present situation without the deep and personal faith that Peter demonstrated. When we seek to live as those committed to Christ as the healing of our lives the world will begin to see in us a healing for which it longs.

Let us commit ourselves, and our broken world, to Christ. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter became the rock, the leader of our faith precisely because he committed himself to Jesus as the Christ, the saviour of the world. Let us allow our faith in Christ to become a foundation for healing.

  • Parasum

    “The months and years ahead must be given to the rediscovery of a vision that will bring healing to our society.”

    A “vision” is exactly what the Church needs. And a vision of Catholicism is precisely what a youth movement like the “Faith” movement – the British & Catholic one, *not* the US Protestant “Word of Faith” movement – can give.

    The bishop says what should happen next – but not how it is to be continued. And there is little point in beginning well, if we do not have solid principles & immovable convictions to begin with, continue with and end with. There is a most serious need for Catholics to be shown that Catholicism is in a unified & organic vision of the universe, & is not a heap of disconnected bits of data. What we believe about the Assumption (say) implies beliefs about bio-ethics, and has implications for behaviour – there are no disconnected, free-standing, independent, autonomous doctrines or practices.  Such a vision can give us the very principles & convictions we need.

    A first step might be, to ensure the use in schools of absolutely orthodox *and orthopractic* catechetical materials in full conformity with the teaching of the Magisterium – especially the CCC, and the Catechism on Social Doctrine. And doctrine is incomplete without a strong interior life, as Fr. R.A. Knox says in one of his books. If Catholics had a strong interior life, & one that was united with a vision of what Catholicism is true, the lapsation rate among young Catholics would be far lower than 90%: a truly horrific figure, which must be, and can be, reversed. “All things are possible with God” – including the renewal of society at large, and of the Catholic Church.

    There has to be an end to the atomised way of seeing things that that ignores the intimate relations between the content of the Liturgy, orthopraxy in the Liturgy, orthodox doctrine, the interior life, individual conduct, and the good of society at large. How we we worship as a People, believe as a People, pray as private persons, believe as private persons, think about God & our neighbour  & the created order, visible or invisible, affects society at large. Since it is “in Christ[, that] all things hold together” that is exactly what one might expect. St. Paul was not spouting pious “uplift”, but saying what the universe is really like; it is in Christ. The practical & doctrinal & social & moral consequences of this fact are endless. As is everything about Christ – how we think of Him, influences our understanding of the world about us. So much for for the Christian Faith being a purely private set of ideas without reality or consequences !

    That 90% figure:

    “There is, as the excellent Mrs Daphne McLeod has pointed out, a “total
    failure to teach the authentic Catholic Faith in Catholic schools,
    resulting in a staggering 90% lapsation rate among school leavers”.
    That’s worth repeating. NINETY PERCENT: it’s higher than the lapsation
    rate among Catholic children who go to secular schools.”

  • ms catholic state

    Before people can commit to Jesus Christ…..they must be told who He is.  They must be told that He is God and the centre of Creation.  Today….the young people don’t really know this.  Until they do….they won’t commit.

  • ms catholic state

    Before people can commit to Jesus Christ…..they must be told who He is.  They must be told that He is God and the centre of Creation.  Today….the young people don’t really know this.  Until they do….they won’t commit.

  • Anonymous

    Much of our world is NOT broken. Viewing the world through Daily Mail ‘apocalyptic’ spectacles is not helpful. 

  • Anonymous

    It is precisely because not only our nation and past and present governments  have tried through communism to eradicate GOD  and HIS Commandments and Laws that we see such events as the riots.We need to put GOD back into society, keep HIS Commandments and Laws, and realise that today is the day we bring out The Most Blessed Sacrament —-Jesus Christ truly present, Body,Blood, Soul, and Divinity—– for 24 Hour perpetual Adoration, and for us to take out our Rosary Beads and Pray The Holy Rosary,especially to end abortion. When Mankind lives in union with GOD,then shall we have peace. The solution is in our Hands.