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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Catholic Social Doctrine: Love Thy Neighbor

In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians he preaches to them the importance of charity:  “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ (NRVC, Galatians 6:2). 
Two thousand years later,Catholic social doctrine still uses the Law of Christ as the model upon which we build our teachings in regards to: the  indigent, economic need, social structure, and the role of government. Through our love for God we are able to conversely love those around us. In loving our neighbors,  we strive to provide for those in need, and create a social structure that supports both our love for God and the programs and endeavors that are enacted as a result of that love.
Several facets of Catholic social teaching are relative to Christ and His relationship to us and the sacrifice He made on behalf of His neighbors. As Christians, the very fact that we set Jesus as the cornerstone of our faith dictates the necessity for us to live by His example. As His disciples we must be willing to make the same sacrifices, and show the same mercies, that He did. Humanity as a whole was created in God's image. Jesus, being the penultimate exemplification of this, aids us in seeing that each person bears the imprint of God. Our recognition of God in others is the source of our desire to help them. “The fact that persons are essentially relational beings has its supreme exemplification in the fact that God is not a Monad but a Trinitarian communion of 'subsistent relations.' To the extant that a being is personal, it will be a being-in-relation-to-other-persons” (Dwyer & Elizabeth, 194). 
More than just neighbors, the people who live along side us are gifts from God. Our urge to facilitate their happiness is both a showing of gratitude for their existence and an even deeper appreciation for their redemption through Christ. In line with our twofold gratitude for our neighbor, is a double dose of hope. In serving the Church socially, we also strive to instill hope in those less fortunate. Through our actions, in the name of Christ, the beleaguered will be  given reason to hope for better living conditions, physically and spiritually, and hope for eternal salvation. 
What sets Catholic social doctrine apart from other humanitarian efforts is that Christian love is a radical and profound self-giving in a radical solidarity with the other. The belief is not simply that God comes first (He does). It is that we must put all of humanity before ourselves. Catholic social doctrine dictates that we must put ourselves in the role of Christ and embrace our own crosses. We must take up the ills of those around us, even those who “trespass against us.” The Gospel According to Matthew tells us explicitly that: “The last will be first, and the first will be last” (NRSV, Matthew 20:16). It is not a suggestion.

Sources:
Dwyer, Judith A., and Elizabeth L. Montgomery. "Socialization." The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1994. 194. Print.

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