Lenin’s famous booklet, What is to be done? argued that the proletariat would not be radicalised simply though activities designed to secure better pay and conditions. He was right; they weren’t. By extension, one might assert that Catholics have not been converted through an emphasis on how the Church deals with social and economic problems. Indeed, it would be interesting to know how many converts came into the Church because of its social teaching? That is not to say that such teaching is not important, nor to deny the Gospel imperative to help the poor, but it is to suggest that such an emphasis lies to one side of what brings people to Christianity and to the Catholic Church.
Social and economic concerns provides a point of openness to the world, but is not solely the concern of the Churches; if we provide nothing more than what the world can provide, then why would anyone go the extra mile to join a Church?
We either provide a remedy for the spiritual ills of the world, or we are wasting our time, which would be better employed helping those many agencies whose reason for being lies in tackling such ills. We can provide a reason for a bias toward the poor, and we can, do, and should, insert a moral dimension to what might otherwise be a rather utilitarian approach to the poor. We help because they are our brothers and sisters, not because they are suitable objects for our social engineering or because helping them would be a salve to our consciences. We help them because Christ tells us we should.
All of which is to say that while we can rightly concern ourselves with some of the things that are Caesar’s. we do not speak with special authority in those realms; men and woman can do good via working in them, but they do not become more Christ-like by so doing.
A sense of brokenness haunts us. We have many names for that internal emptiness which assaults our most private moments, and we have developed a rich language of therapy to help each other, not to mention a multi-billion pound pharmaceutical industry. Yet with all of that, the problem persists and, like death, is universal.
The purpose of Christian culture is to inculturate the people of the world with the culture of the Kingdom of God, and helping others is simply part of that wider culture. The Good News is that we do not need to get what we deserve. In no way do I “deserve” salvation. I cannot earn it through right belief or orthopraxis. If I were judged by the standards even of this world, I would be lost. But I have a great advocate in Christ, who has paid the price for me.
I am saved by His sacrifice, and I am being saved by it, and at the last I hope that I shall be saved, and that in my way of living I can evidence what He has done for me. If my Faith has no fruits then it is in vain; if my deeds are not done in Him, then they will avail others, but not my eternal soul. That is why knowing Christ is so important. It lies at the heart of everything.
So, for those who have, they say found Him, I cannot and do not say they are wrong. I say only that for me, He is to be found where He said He would be found, which is in His Church. I believe that Church is the Catholic Church, and that being in Communion with Rome is the safest guarantee of that fact. But I would not and do not dare say that others who say they have found Him, and evidence that in their lives, are wrong. I can and do say that the Church is our best assurance, and the best guide against too great a dependence on our own emotionalism and intellectualism.
It is the task of Christian Pastors to proclaim the Good News. Healing is there for what ails us. Do we do that? Is that what people think of when the Church is mentioned? If not, then we might ask what part we play as disciples? Do we give reasons for the hope that is in us? Do we model our Faith or just preach it? If our Faith does not quicken our hearts, then what is to be done?