Bible Corner

This weekend’s Gospel, taken from the Gospel of St. John, sees Jesus speaking of what must happen to him, ‘the Son of Man’ and why. He has to be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert — Jesus is speaking about his crucifixion: he will be crucified ‘so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him’. The next verse, John 3:14, has often been seen on cards in football stadiums. It reads: ‘Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.’ God loved the world so much — he sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.

There is a journal called ‘Studies’ that is published four times in the year that examines Irish social, political, cultural and economic issues in the light of Christian values and it also explores issues in literature, history philosophy and religion, with an emphasis on the Irish dimension. It is made up of a number of essays and an editorial before the essays that looks quickly at the topics being presented in the issue. The overall topic discussed in the Winter issue 2023-24, is that of Justice in the Here and Now and one of the points the editorial deals with is how Pope Francis is facing a lot of opposition especially in relation to his teaching in relation to social justice. The editor writes: “For the Pope’s conservative critics, of course, it is he who is the ideologue, and nowhere do they see it more than in his commitment to social justice. By giving unprecedented attention to climate change, migration, the death penalty, economic inequality, and other aspects of social justice he has shown himself, they think, to be a leftist, a Peronist, a Marxist, a Leninist — certainly a secularist whose only concern is with the bettering of life on earth…So where do they think the pope goes wrong? Bishop Athanasius Schneider, one of Francis’ severest and most visible critics, thinks that progressive Catholics like the Pope ignore the reality that ‘social justice is not the first task of the Church’. ‘There were a lot of social problems, injustices, in the time of Jesus and the apostles,’ Bishop Schneider said, ‘but it was not the first concern of the mission of the Church. The first concern was to guide the souls to heaven.’

But it is precisely separating things out in this way that Francis opposes, and the magisterium of recent decades is with him on that. Vatican II affirms that ‘a sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man’, and it asserts that that dignity is predicated on the scriptural doctrine that every person ‘was created to the image of God’. And the Church since the Council has become increasingly sensitive to the consequences of this intimacy between God and God’s creation. There is no love of God without love of neighbour.”