Living the Gospel: Engaging Small Communities in Social Action

Peace and Justice
Peace and Justice Issues
Living the Gospel: Engaging Small Communities in Social Action
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The nightly news brings the pressing needs of the world into our living rooms. But information by itself does not usually move us to a compassionate response. Instead, the sheer volume of information or the disturbing nature of visual images can be so overwhelming that we are tempted to use the remote control as a way of emotionally and spiritually distancing ourselves from crucial human situations. It is easier and safer to tune out.

Taking the time to view these same human needs with our brothers and sisters in small communities can bring us to a very different place. Together, we can let Jesus awaken hearts. Together, we can explore the gospel and the teaching of the Church so that our minds can be taken off a “remote” setting and brought to life by the Holy Spirit. Together, we can find ways to discern our own particular calls to bring the gospel message into families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and towns. We can sort out and address issues of social justice on local and global levels. We can delve into Catholic social teachings that flow from the gospel and have been refined by many excellent Church documents.

In this way, small communities can embrace the outward movement of Catholic spirituality, which invites us to bring God’s love to the ends of the earth. “The call of the gospel is clear; the message of Jesus is challenging. We are to bring the Good News to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind. We are called to…translate knowledge of the gospels into practice.”
[1] Each time a small community gathers, we can encourage one another to live out the gospel in everyday life, thereby transforming the world around us.

One tool we can use to discern and to refine our own calling to charity and justice is the Social Inquiry Method. This method helps us reset our hearts and minds by observing the needs of the world around us in the light of God’s presence, and then judging what can be done in that same light. This method can help us grow as “doers of the word” (James 1:22) and as disciples who choose to care for the needs of the poor and oppressed. Or, as the U.S. Catholic Bishops state, faith comes alive as it is practiced in everyday living: from soup kitchens to neighborhoods to families.

[1] Excerpt from Small Christian Communities: A Vision of Hope for the 21st Century, Revised and Updated by Thomas A. Kleissler, Margo A. LeBert, and Mary C. McGuinness, Copyright © 1997 by RENEW International. Used by permission of Paulist Press., p. 256.
[2] See Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 1999), p. 59. Copyright © 2002 by RENEW International