Jesus challenged the status quo through words and actions during his time, and we, as Christians, are called upon to do the same, wherever and whenever we see injustice.
This was said by Auckland diocese Religious Education and Catholic Character advisor Lyn Smith, a lecturer at Te Kupenga — Catholic Theological College, in an online talk entitled “Challenging the Status Quo”, on August 31.
The college sponsored the talk to mark Social Justice Week, which ran from September 3 to 9.
Ms Smith said that Jesus identified himself in Luke’s Gospel as the anointed one, “which was about coming from God, about being chosen for a special task”.
“Being sent is what we are called to do in baptism. We are called to do what God wants. This proclamation is something we should shout aloud,” she said.
Ms Smith said that people have been challenged by Jesus through the Beatitudes he laid down in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels.
Quoting Pope Francis, she said that these values are our “Christian identity card”, and that “we have to do what Jesus did in his life to find the portrait of the master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives”.
Ms Smith said that Jesus also illustrated what we need to do through the parables.
The parable of the Prodigal Son, she said, “tells us about the overwhelming love of God for us. That is the key message, and it is the message of reconciliation, that at any time, we can come back to God”.
“We look at the encounters that we have in the same way as that father’s encounter. We need to look through the eyes of God, not the eyes of the brother in the background,” she said.
In the parable of the sheep and the goat, she said that Pope Francis sees this text, “not as a simple invitation to charity, but as a page about Christology, because it sheds light on the mystery of who Christ is”.
“We ought to see God in all we encounter, especially those who are on the margins,” Ms Smith said.
“Look and encounter the person with their eyes, look at what they are and who they are, because by looking at them, we are also looking at the God who is reflected back to us. I think that sort of really makes us think more, than just handing over something to somebody.”
Ms Smith said that Jesus taught us, in the case of the adulterous woman, not to condemn but to forgive.
“He was saying, yes, God’s laws should be kept and sin should be punished. But there also has to be forgiveness. And before we start looking at everybody else, he said, we need to think about the sin that we are creating or doing ourselves,” Ms Smith said.
“In order to challenge the status quo as Jesus did, we need to encourage people to know Jesus by encouraging them to read the Gospels, to know how to encounter people by looking for Jesus in them, and reflecting Jesus in ourselves back to them, by deepening our faith through reflection and prayer, and to always think of what Jesus would do in any situation.”
“We need to be encouraged to know truth. Because if we know truth, it will help us to be faithful to God. Fidelity is about strength. It is what we are called to be. Our innate faith calls us to be holy because we are made in the image and likeness of God. It’s the core of our being – the source of our life,” Ms Smith said.
She discussed the four core principles of Catholic social teaching, which are human dignity, the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity.
She said that human dignity is based on the concept that we are made in the image and likeness of God, which makes us sacred.
The common good is about what is the best outcome for everybody, not just for a select few, who may be rich and powerful.
Solidarity is about our relationship with others, being responsible for our neighbours, particularly those who are marginalised, while subsidiarity is about empowering them.