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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ The Reign of God and Crossing Boundaries

Mark, in his Gospel, describes Jesus coming into a synagogue (sacred space) on a Sabbath day (a sacred time).  While teaching in this place, he encounters a man with an unclean spirit.  In Israel such a person was ritually unclean and thus to be avoided.  A person was deemed to be holy to the degree they kept away from the unholy, the unclean.  Sometimes this was certain foods, certain action or on occasion, certain people.  The man possessed of an unclean spirit was one of these last.

Jesus knows of this demand for avoidance.  He does not allow himself to be bound.  Rather he crosses the boundary for the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of the Reign of God.  Jesus recognizes that, far from being limited by the ritual purity law his mission is to cross over to bring life to those in need.  In doing so, he brings the Reign, its liberation and its healing to the man with the unclean spirit.

The result of this encounter of the man with the unclean spirit is healing.  Jesus expels the unclean spirit and restores the unfortunate person to wholeness and freedom from the bonds of the unclean spirit.  By crossing the boundaries that limited others, Jesus was able to make present the active Reign of God.  To enter the Reign of God means crossing such boundaries.  It often means taking actions and holding positions that others shy from.  Ultimately, it means reaching out to bring others the wholeness and the liberation for which we all long.

All of this is the basis of Catholic Social Teaching.  This teaching developed in the Catholic community over the past two hundred years, beginning in the late 19th century when the Industrial Revolution began to impact our world.  The event produced massive changes in world economies, social structures and political life.  There was a need to read the Gospel in a way that relates to these changes.

Out of this new reading came Catholic Social Teaching.  The Church began to reflect on the basic elements of economic and social structures in the light of Jesus’ message and mission.  The teaching that comes out of this ongoing reflection continues today and its fundamentals affect the manner in which we view our own global society and its economic, social and political realities.

A number of basic principles form the foundation of Catholic Social Teaching.  Such teaching calls for respect for the dignity of the human person, all persons.  It is further founded on the priority of the common good in all decision making, political, economic and social.  From this foundation flows the Church’s call and advocacy for justice, peace and global respect in our world.  Our Canadian Church expresses t his in many ways, globally through The Canadian Organization for Development and Peace and its programs of aid and advocacy for justice, peace and the respect for equality of all.

The Reign of God knows no boundaries –

it respects, heals and reconciles all of Creation.

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