Spiritual readings for Sunday 3rd September
Week of 28th August (reference: readings for Sunday 3rd September)
22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Readings: Rom 12, 1-2; Mt 16,21-27
"Do not conform to the world, but be transformed."
Thes readings make us reflect on the Church’s vocation of "being in the world without being of the world".
In St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, he says: "do not conform to the world, but be transformed, renewing your way of thinking and judging, so that you can distinguish what is the will of God". It is a clear indication that we cannot accommodate ourselves to the world, but seek the will of God. And this exercise cannot be done only once, it must be done constantly, because the world demands that we renew our way of thinking and judging at every moment, in every decision we make, every undertaking that we carry out and each time we judge the world and our brother. It is an exercise that we do from our birth until the moment we leave this world.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that the true life is not in the world, but in the "carrying of his cross": "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and who loses his life because of me, will find it. In fact, what is the profit of a man who gains the whole world, but loses his soul?" It is interesting that Jesus does not tell us to abandon the world. In a way, He accepts that we can win the whole world: the power, the money and the glory; and there is nothing wrong with that, provided that we do so "because of Him". Obviously, there are very beautiful vocations of total devotion to contemplation and asceticism, like the monks who literally abandon the world. They also convert every day. But we are required a different vocation: being in the world, we must use everything that it offers, for the selfless service of the Gospel.
There cannot be a more appropriate message for the members of the Vincentian Family (in particular the laity) who live in the world. Because it is difficult to be in the world, without being carried away by the way in which we are evaluated: success, wealth, social or political status! God gives the Vincentians the grace of closeness to poverty, loneliness, disease and the suffering of the poor, so that we can "change the world", starting with our own conversion
And, in order to "be in the world without being of the world", as lay people, we do not need to have functions of the Church ‘ad intra’, i.e., of priests and deacons. On the contrary! In March 2014, speaking to members of the Catholic TV channels of Italy, the Pope Francis criticized what he calls "clericalism", that is, to limit the action of the laity "to the tasks within the Church", rather than (as in the Encyclical Evangelii Gaudium) assert "Christian values in the social, political and economic world." This is our way of "adapting the world to the will of God".
Ozanam was an example of the search for the transformation of the world when, learning from his profession (as Professor at the Sorbonne), from his Vincentian life (as visitor of the poor) and from his life of a Catholic (as visitor of the Holy Sacrament), he was a strong "Public Advocate" of social justice. As forerunner of Rerum Novarum (encyclical of the Pope Leo XIII) and, therefore, of the Social Teachings of the Church, Ozanam did not keep silent, but defended strongly the public policies with regard to the principle of subsidiarity, for the social protection of the most deprived.
As Vincentians, are we willing to follow this vocation of transformation and proclamation, in the world where we live?