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What Jesus is doing

| Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Ms. Weber recently published a column and asked, “What would Jesus do?” I would like to respond by sharing what Jesus is currently doing through the members of His Catholic Church, the Body of Christ.

This past year I have been asking similar questions to Ms. Weber. I wonder how I can live radically now and not fall into the trap of American consumerism, the material comfort I experience here at school and at home and the temptation to embrace a throwaway culture — one where everything is expendable. American Catholics too often fail to live Jesus’ radical call to renounce wealth, and I consider myself one of them.

The modern Catholic Church, however, has been an inspiration to my pursuit in living out Jesus’ call in his encounter with the rich young man, not an institution deserving of blanket criticism. Not an institution that spends money on “gold chalices and fancy priestly garments” instead of the poor. Not an institution that has erased “Jesus’ true teachings as a way of placating conservative Catholics with wealth.” Rather, the Church has stood as a witness to Jesus’ radical call to renunciation and to help the poor. I look to Pope Francis who opted to live in a small apartment in Rome instead of residing in the Papal apartments. I think of the many young men and women who take vows of poverty as they enter into religious life. I consider the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who resettled almost one-third of refugees in the United States in 2010.

A conservative American Catholic is not representative of the Universal Church. The Church is an educator. In 2016, the Church ran 139,000 schools worldwide. The Church is a healthcare provider. In fact, she is the largest nonprofit healthcare provider in the United States.

The Church is a humanitarian organization. Catholic Relief Services serves nearly 100 million people every year around the world. The Church, beyond all of these roles, is a home for those seeking spiritual nourishment, saints and sinners alike. What would Jesus do? Probably all of these things.

Many articles, not just Ms. Weber’s, over the last few weeks have discussed the intersection of Catholicism and politics. Every Catholic is called to live their faith in the political sphere, as in every other, honestly and according to the dictates of their conscience, formed by Church teaching. It’s unsurprising that in a fallen world, no human institution could have a perfect claim to every tenet of Catholicism. But as we engage in this debate, we should remember C.S. Lewis’ warning, wittily expressed in The Screwtape Letters:

“Whichever political stance a man adopts, the tempter’s task remains the same. Let him begin by treating it as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ‘Cause,’ in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favor of the political stance. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.”

Francine Shaft


Sept. 8

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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