How do we respond in a Christian way to troubling situations in society with a Gospel understanding? The response of the bishops, when they convened for their autumn general meeting, was to establish Social Gospel Week, following Human Rights Sunday, on the second Sunday of Advent.
By formally proclaiming this special week and by observing this week each year, the bishops intend that the Social Gospel will find its rightful place in the essential teachings of the Church. They hope that by applying the teachings of the gospels to social behavior, we will begin to change how we look on disturbing social issues we have come to accept as normal, and begin to practice what we believe in our daily lives, becoming what we have been asked to become: the salt and light in society.
The bishops will publish a text book on the Social Gospel that will be a help to the catechumens and to all parishioners. As well as presenting the core teachings in one place, it will undoubtedly sensitize our awareness of the injustices in society, and to the fact that they are an offense against God as much as are the sins of an individual.
The president of the Bishops' Conference hopes that each diocese will use the Social Gospel Week to educate the Catholics on how we should respond to current social issues, and to continue to do so. This teaching, he goes on to say, was thought by many to be a matter of choice, that you could choose to follow or not follow the social gospel. By setting aside one week of the year to remind us of the importance of the 'social message' of the gospels, the bishops intend to correct this misunderstanding. The message that needs to be realized can be summed up by a few words from the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done on earth...."
The editorial in the Catholic Times praised the bishops' decision to set aside one week to bring more attention to the social teachings of the gospels. Discussed for many years, the need for more emphasis on the ethical teachings concerning social behavior has finally been addressed, and will be welcomed by many. Also needed to help undo the misunderstanding of many is a clear description of what constitutes a just society and what role religion should take in helping to develop such a society.
These questions and others that the Social Gospel Week will undoubtedly generate will be discussed by special programs during the week and follow-up programs in the future. Everyone will not only be informed about the teachings of the Social Gospel but have a better understanding of why the Church becomes involved in social issues.