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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Service as Worship
Kate O’Connor reflects on self-giving as a form of worship


Consecrated woman Kate O’Connor gave the following talk to Catholic students at Texas A&M University, as part of their consideration of social justice issues. The text was originally published in the October 2012 issue of Matthew 25, the social justice monthly newsletter of St. Mary’s Catholic Center in College Station TX.

God does not need our worship; he is complete in himself, even without receiving the worship of his creatures. We, however, aren’t complete. In our fallen state, we have separated ourselves from God. Worship draws us closer to him. Man is essentially religious and God-seeking. We have a longing in us for something higher, something beyond. The way we unite ourselves to him and the way we express to him our need and gratitude for his abundant love is through forms of WORSHIP.

The greatest form of worship and adoration of God was given to us by God himself before he returned to the Father: the MASS. In Mass we give God the Father the most perfect offering. We offer back to the Father the very Son he gave to us to redeem us from our sins. After living this most perfect form of worship to God, the Mass indicates to us how we can respond to this self giving of Jesus: ‘Go forth; the Mass has ended,’ ‘Go to announce the Gospel of the Lord,’ ‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your lives.’  We are sent out from the Mass – from worship – to glorify the Lord with our lives and to spread the Gospel. Pope Benedict XVI frequently mentions that for Christian faith and discipleship to be authentic, it necessarily involves a stepping out of oneself so as to love God in our neighbor and to build community. The idea that belief in God is solely a personal experience and that one can live out his or her faith in an isolated way, apart from a community, is ultimately unchristian. No one should leave the Mass, or even a moment of individual prayer, without the intention of living it out and transforming the world around him. That is authentic Christianity.

So how does our ‘worship’ outside of the liturgy take shape? Our offering to God outside of Mass and prayer is LOVE. In Pope Benedict’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, he explains this perfectly: The Spirit, (LOVE) in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes their hearts (those of the faithful) with Christ´s heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when he bent down to wash the feet of the disciples (cf. Jn 13:1-13) and above all when he gave his life for us (cf. Jn 13:1, 15:13).

The Spirit is also the energy which transforms the heart of the ecclesial community, so that it becomes a witness before the world to the love of the Father, who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son. The entire activity of the Church is an expression of a love that seeks the integral good of man: it seeks his evangelization through Word and Sacrament, an undertaking that is often heroic in the way it is acted out in history; and it seeks to promote man in the various arenas of life and human activity. Love is therefore the service that the Church carries out in order to attend constantly to man´s sufferings and his needs, including material needs. And this is the SERVICE OF CHARITY (Deus Caritas Est #19).

When we speak of the Church carrying out the service of charity, we aren’t just referring to the thousands of charitable organizations run by the Church and her faithful around the world (although it is amazing!). We are reminded that the Church is each one of us! The service and self-giving that each of us carries out in the name of Christ and for the sake of helping one’s neighbor (in its multiple forms: family, friends, materially and spiritually poor, institutions, social structures, and so forth) is the Church’s service of charity. I serve as a disciple of Christ - as a member of his Body, the Church.  We are reminded that this service of charity is ongoing. Even as we work to create better social structures and to increase our aid and support to the needy, the love for my neighbor – the SERVICE OF CHARITY – will always be a demand.

Love – caritas - will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable. The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person -every person - needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in Matthew 25…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. If in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be ´devout´ and to perform my ´religious duties´, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely ´proper´, but loveless (Deus Caritas Est).

This is the message I would like to leave: no matter how big or small the service that is carried out, when it is done in Christ’s name and with the intention of making him known to others (even if it be by example alone), it is fruitful and it is a fulfillment of worship. As Pope Benedict says, ‘The world needs the service of LOVE.’



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