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.
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
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.’