Why is there all this bother about social justice? I’m a good Catholic. I go to Mass and confession and say my prayers. Why do I need to worry about social justice too?
Perplexed in the Pews
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he gave a two part answer. The first is to love God with all of our strength and the second part is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So who is my neighbor? Jesus tells several stories about this, including the story of the Good Samaritan who takes pity on a man who was beaten and robbed and left by the side of the road. Other people had passed him by and pretended that they didn’t see the man. The only one who took pity on the man was a Samaritan, a man despised by good Jews of the time because of an accident of birth.
In his description of the final judgement, Jesus again makes clear the importance of caring for our fellow human beings. It is in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and the imprisoned, and offering other forms of service that we serve him.
The message of Jesus echoes the message of the Torah and the Prophets. We can’t say we love God when we don’t love our neighbor. In the Hebrew Scriptures, God speaking through the prophets tells people that he doesn’t want burnt offerings. God wants people to take care of each other. We are to be merciful to people, whether they deserve help or not, because God loves them and has made us all in the divine image. As God’s children, all humans have a special dignity and infinite worth.
There is really no way that being faithful to our religious duties makes any sense unless we live the love of God we profess by making that love real. As we know in our everyday life, love is so much more than words. The same holds true in our lives of faith. The “proof of the pudding” is in our concern for all of God’s children.