We easily find ourselves as spectators at this theatre of the world we are living in today. We resign ourselves in our comfortable seat, feeling numb and helpless as social injustice, corruption and human suffering pass by on this global stage that alternates its scenes from those of comedy to tragedy. We are benefitting from economic growth and experience a wealth effect but do not realise that the human condition is deteriorating as we misplace our faith in materialism, in governments and in ourselves.
One of our greatest challenges today is to brush off this indifference which is the result of the cosiness of a culture of well-being. Money has taken centre stage and has marginalised people’s dignity and rights. As Pope Francis told the diplomatic corps in January 2016, we are spreading a “culture of waste which endangers the human person, sacrificing men and women before the idols of profit and consumption”.
We have become indifferent to poverty and hunger, to the suffering of immigrants and refugees, to the widening gap of inequality, to the ugly face of envy and greed in ordinary life and in business, to the infringements on human rights and freedom of speech, to murder and human tragedy, to the exploits of so-called scientific advancement in robotics and artificial intelligence, to the exploitation and destruction of the environment. This is the definition of a type of poverty we rarely speak about – spiritual poverty, when we believe we can make do on our own, and like Frank Sinatra, proudly declare: “I did it my way”.
We need to start by rediscovering our conscience and listening to it
In a homily in July 2013, Pope Francis observed: “How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t protect what God created for everyone and we end up unable to care for one another.” We feel helpless in defending human life and human relationships as political correctness has cleared our conscience from saying and doing what we believe in and what is always right, and abhorring what has always been wrong. We need to start by rediscovering our conscience and listening to it. “You have seen many things, but you do not observe them. Your ears are open but none hears” (Isiah 42:20).
Catholics are being called to public life and activism but this starts with the revival of Christian families and by means of faith formation and Catholic education. It starts with the rediscovery of civility which finds its origin in human respect and the spirit of helping others.
We need to understand that involvement and participation, even if risky and uncertain of immediate outcomes, is better than passivity and inaction. We are partners in constructing a better world community which can only happen if we move from a liquid economy to a social economy that invests in people by providing jobs that are guided by ethical concern, through training and education, where economic growth is translated into a benefit to the common good and where profit is reinvested in innovation and development.
However, the common good requires peace – a morally acceptable means of security and defence of people by means of respect towards law and order and social justice. Society is vibrant if there is genuine and unshackled interaction between economics, culture and politics. It is culture, the community’s mindset, that is the most important of the three.
It is time to rediscover our Christian cultural roots that enable us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.” (Revelations 3:15-22)
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