To act...

Loving God and loving neighbour are at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ. They are inseparable duties, even joys, which flow from faith. They are not just an individual responsibility, but the responsibility of the Church itself:

 

Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practise love.

Deus Caritas Est 20

“Love of neighbour” includes all people, not just those we encounter personally in our daily lives. Responding according to our capacity to the needs of those who are sick, disadvantaged, hungry, marginalised, imprisoned or unloved is lived at an individual level when we encounter people in need. Our commitment to love of neighbour is also lived when we work to change situations of injustice in society, or we contribute our own resources to help those who are suffering in our society or in other countries:

 

 

To love someone is to desire that person's good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.”

Deus Caritas Est 20

 

Social issues are predominantly issues of justice, and there are a number of papal documents called social encyclicals which analyse injustice in society and in the world and propose solutions. The teaching of the Catholic Church on social matters has given rise to The Principles of Catholic Social Teaching, which provide a framework for analysis and action in addressing injustice. Caring for those in need or working for justice can often be an individual informal activity, sometimes spontaneous but often the result of great personal commitment. Some Catholics work within community organisations providing care, and others work with Church organisations. Each New Zealand diocese has a Catholic Social Services organisation, and other Catholic organisations provide assistance of different types to those in need. Working for the common good and a just society is a particular responsibility of Catholic lay people, who may do this as part of their daily work or in civil society organisations. There are a number of Catholic organisations actively committed to working for justice and peace at parish, diocesan and national level.

 

Image Credits:
Leo Duce/Caritas