This is the second of a three-part series on ‘The Way of Christ’ for the Lenten Season appearing in the Catholic Register.
By: Peter Copeland & Brendan Steven
As we progress along any journey, we are faced with countless disturbances, distractions, our own laziness or lukewarmness, and temptations that can lead us astray. Jesus takes us off our comfortable path, where we seek to associate with the likeminded and not be troubled by people we disagree with, wrapping ourselves in social cocoons of positivity, affirmation, and groupthink.
In this piece, we reflect on the temptation we often face in dealing with our brothers and sisters with whom we struggle to get along with – the temptation to ignore, discard, or dominate. Faced with the knowledge of impending social ostracization and conflict with the authorities, untold difficulty and suffering, and his coming death on a cross, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. In Jesus’ humble submissiveness, we see how we are to confront the temptation to flee, or to respond to social conflict and challenges in unfruitful ways.
Picking up where we left off in our journeys in search of our place in the world and in the Church, we have both felt an intense desire to discover and follow the Way of Christ in its fullness. We have both seen what happens when it is followed incompletely, having spent part of our careers in the often-acrimonious world of politics. Thankfully, we are lucky to have found our way to lay apostolates that are rooted in finding the fullness of the Way. Among them is Catholic Conscience, an organization based in Canada whose aim is civic evangelization, namely, the formation of Catholics and people of good will into active, engaged citizens rooted in the full breadth of Catholic social teaching. Its lofty goal is to bring the Gospel in all its aspects into our public life.
Our experience with Catholic Conscience has influenced the way in which we approach the task of personal formation and evangelization in our culture today. In all that we do, we now describe our work as evangelistic because this is the wisdom of the Church in describing her social doctrine:
“Evangelizing the social sector… means infusing into the human heart the power of meaning and freedom found in the Gospel… it means building a city of man that is more human because it is in greater conformity with the Kingdom of God.”
It has been said that all evangelism heals because it makes possible an encounter with God, who always heals in His encounters with us. Civic evangelization aims to heal the woundedness of our public life through the healing Way of Christ.
This call to conversion is sorely needed in this time when social fragmentation and polarization are the mark of the public sphere.
As Christians, we aren’t immune to this fragmentation. In interacting with Catholics and people of good will from all walks of life and across the political spectrum, we see vividly how so many of us Christians put our “isms” before Christ – ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ often come before Christian. Critically, for Christians, this manifests in a warping of our vision of who Christ is, and what he has to tell us about how we love and live with each other. We desire Christ when he affirms our idols—we ignore him when he asks us to cast them out.
At the same time as we’ve seen this disordered sense of identity, we’ve also noted that many feel obliged to leave their faith at home, to not incorporate it into the many aspects of their social and civic lives. In our work, we strive to show the relevance of Catholic social teaching for the fulfilment of human life, especially in civic and political community, so it can be applied in civic vocations as voters, active citizens, professionals, and politicians. We believe Catholic social teaching is not just a “nice to have” in the life of discipleship, but rather, it is at the very heart of Christ’s Great Commission.
How do we approach the Gordian knot that is toxicity, polarization, and the application of prudential principles to thorny, hot button issues? How do we communicate truths that have always been difficult for our worldly ways to take and hardened hearts to hear? Though the specifics change considerably with the times, we think the core of it does not, because the core is simply Christ – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Because God created the world in His nature, it is intelligible and good. Common to all of reality is truth, goodness and beauty. In everything, there is a degree of truth—what we can know with our minds—and there is goodness, the degree of perfection we can see in a thing. Beauty is what happens when truth and goodness are found together. We see the two and intuit that it is beautiful.
By attentiveness to what God and His Creation are like, we can come to create in our thoughts and deeds things that we can recognize as approximations of God’s nature, which is perfection – in love, goodness, truth, beauty. What is only natural is elevated and infused with grace by Faith, through which we believe in God; in Hope we desire our Lord, which carries our faith and our love along through thick and thin with its childlike simplicity and yearning for the Kingdom; By Charity, we love Him and his way above all things
During this period of lent, let us recall to mind how Jesus dealt with conflict – personal and political. The phrase, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” speaks volumes.
The previous entry in the series is available here and on the Register’s webpage
 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (63)
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1812-1832
 Matthew 5:44
[…] previous entries in the series are available here and here, and on the Register’s […]