I had some plans to work on some responses for the great posts I have been reading on The Awakening Project until I put everything down upon coming across the summary of the teaching (formally called a Catechesis) from the Pope’s General Audience this morning (Wednesday August 12, 2020) on Vatican News. Do you remember Pope Francis’ address on COVID-19 and Jesus calming the storm which was posted as one of the first prophetic voices on the The Awakening Project blog? As I was reading the summary of his talk this morning, I was immediately reminded of that address.
Pope Francis resumed his Weekly Wednesday General Audiences last week after taking a break throughout the month of July. With his return, he began a new teaching series on “Healing the World,” a series that is fitting as the world continues its battle with COVID-19 and in many places, moving to a post-COVID era. Pope Francis in this series is striving to give pointers on how to live during and post-pandemic in light of the Catholic Social Teachings.
“We cannot go on thinking of ourselves,” Pope Francis said in his address on March 27 in the empty St. Peter’s Square but with thousands present via livestream. In today’s address, he said something that seems to build off what he said back in March, “If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including creation, we cannot heal the world.” Pope Francis said that while the pandemic has no doubt put into the spotlight some fine examples of people as living “evidence of human and Christian love for neighbour,” he has also admits that “the pandemic has shed light on broader social ills and one of those “ills” is “a distorted view of the person, a perspective that ignores the dignity and relational of the person.” He says that there are times when the human person is seen as an object and transformed merely into a “consumer good” – a result of what Pope Francis has mentioned constantly as a result of a “throw-away culture.” What are some other social justice issues that are a result of a “throw-away culture” that Pope Francis speaks of?
Pope Francis is trying to get into something bigger as he speaks of the importance of “communion” and “harmony” in a society. I know, the word “harmony” sounds like something from a fantasy or some may see it as something heavenly. However, I think Pope Francis defines “harmony” well in his talk:
In the light of faith we know, instead, that God looks at a man and a woman in another manner. He created us not as objects but as people loved and capable of loving; He has created us in His image and likeness (see Gen 1:27). In this way He has given us a unique dignity, calling us to live in communion with Him, in communion with our sisters and our brothers, with respect for all creation. In communion, in harmony, we might say. Creation is the harmony in which we are called to live. And in this communion, in this harmony that is communion, God gives us the ability to procreate and safeguard life (see Gen 1:28-29), to till and keep the land (see Gen 2:15; LS, 67). It is clear that one cannot procreate and safeguard life without harmony; it will be destroyed.(emphasis added)
We do not live in a world where the world revolves around us, or an individual. Rather, we live in a world where everyone is unique in body and mind and all people, no matter where someone is in their state in life, they are contributors of society. All are called to live in “communion” or “harmony” with each other to build a better world. Looking through the wide range of social justice topics that have been covered in The Awakening Project, it is impossible to stand up for such issues and take action if everyone in the world were to go by their own ego and say, “Listen to me, and only me,” or “Only my feelings matter.” Harmony – that ties into unity, dialogue… these are themes that have been brought up in the project through the various interfaith initiatives shared on the blog.
Pope Francis goes on to say, “Seeking to climb in life, to be superior to others, destroys harmony. It is the logic of dominion, of dominating others. Harmony is something else: it is service.” That is everyone’s vocation no matter their religion, race, skin colour, beliefs… we are called to service. We must be attentive to the needs of others and that requires time, effort and most of all, an open heart. There are some who are privileged but chase degree after degree with the intention to one day climb in life not to help others, but as Pope Francis said, “to be superior to others.” I, along with so many University students and those pursuing education should aim to use the degrees for the common good, to bring the lowly up. The Dominicans for example, pursues further studies to have assets that would not serve themselves, but rather, to help them in their mission in serving the wider community wherever they are sent. Pope Francis sums up these thoughts well as he says, “We are social beings; we need to live in this social harmony, but when there is selfishness, our outlook does not reach others, the community, but focuses on ourselves, and this makes us ugly, nasty and selfish, destroying harmony.” What are some ways that we can promote harmony among our brothers and sisters in a society where there are some who climb on top of each other and selfishly want to be ahead of the game for personal gain? What are some factors that makes it difficult to live in communion and harmony with one another?
While COVID-19 is certainly serious, the pandemic of the “culture of indifference” is worse as its very core is selfishness and no longer allows us to live in true harmony and a society built on selfishness does not last. It crumbles as it undermines the common good of all.
“May the Lord “restore our sight” so as to rediscover what it means to be members of the human family. And may this sight be translated into concrete actions of compassion and respect for every person and of care and safeguarding of our common home.”
Read Pope Francis’ talk from Wednesday August 12, 2020 here.
General Audience video: