Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Church For the Poor

The visit of the pope to Korea is still vivid to the Korean Catholics. His words of appreciation and hope remain not only with the Catholics but with many of the citizens. He urged the Asian youth to let their faith be a light to the world. At the beatification ceremony he pointed out how the martyrs overcame the world and their age with their faith. Showed those hurting in society his solidarity with their suffering. Expressed great affection and friendship to the bishops of Korea but at the same time did not hide his concern with the challenges to the church of materialism and  secularization (worldliness). These are the words that begin an article in the Korean Times by a sociologist priest who is the head of the justice and peace committee in his diocese.

Secularization,he says, generally means the society and culture have abandoned religious systems and ways of thinking. Industrialization and the multiplicity of religions have become part of the society. The problem comes when the church and the people of faith are not conscious that they have become part of the secularization.

This is the temptation to worldliness. Instead of following the Gospel and the Church's tradition we follow the ways of the world The way we have  gone for big and splendid churches and concerned with the numbers of converts is a sign of this thinking, The  church is in search of efficiency like in industry. Our lives are judged by success and power. The church becomes a social gathering.

There is the movement towards making religion and the Gospel a private matter. We limit it to the private sphere and make it something for the individual. The public dimension of the Gospel is ignored, the church should only be concerned with the individual mind and soul. To criticize society and pick out problems in society is not permitted.

This secularization of religion makes it a private affair and makes for the marketization of religion, and the theology of prosperity. Consumers pick what fits their taste and this leads to a Jesus who will bring success and prosperity. Religions and the Church is no longer purifying us from boundless desires but instead urges on the craving. 

The pope made it very clear that this comes about when the church is no longer close to the people. In this case the church becomes a social gathering. We   lose the prophetic call. We become a church of the rich: a 'well-being' church. The pope showed the bishops where they must go.

"Solidarity with the poor is at the heart of the Gospel; it has to be seen as an essential element of the Christian life; through preaching and catechesis grounded in the rich patrimony of the Church’s social teaching, it must penetrate the hearts and minds of the faithful and be reflected in every aspect of ecclesial life. The apostolic ideal of a Church of and for the poor, a poor Church for the poor, found eloquent expression in the first Christian communities of your nation. I pray that this ideal will continue to shape the pilgrim path of the Church in Korea as she looks to the future. I am convinced that if the face of the Church is first and foremost a face of love, more and more young people will be drawn to the heart of Jesus ever aflame with divine love in the communion of his mystical body" (Talk of the pope to Korean bishops).

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