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A Return to Gospel Teachings

Charity, Justice, Sacrifice, Repentance, Wisdom, Mercy, Compassion, and Humility. These tenets of the Catholic faith may be found in Jesus Christ’s gospel teachings. His parables, his healing grace, his forgiveness, and his generosity are features of his public ministry. There is no question about it, his teachings changed the world, but at some point along the way these teachings, while respected for their benefits, were somehow separated from the God from whom we received them. While secular thinking adopts these principles as a way to make this world a better place, it is through our faith in God that we see these precepts as a way to make eternal life our goal.
On today’s date (May 15) in the year 1800, Pope Pius VII published his Encyclical, “Diu Satis - On A Return To Gospel Principles” and urged Catholics to rededicate themselves to the faith established by Jesus Christ. While some of the encyclical may seem radical by today’s standards, his message was clear “[That] every people is embraced by my fatherly love, thoughts, and concern. We grieve and suffer greatly if any are separated from the truth, and We desire to assist them. Join us, then, in Our prayers that after this long-lasting disturbance, ‘the Church may have peace to be built up as it walks in the fear of the Lord and in the consolation of the Holy Spirit.’ May nothing hinder all peoples from becoming one fold with one shepherd.” In the past few years we have seen more division, not only socially, but within our own Catholic faith. The lines of virtue have been blurred. Compassion has at times attempted to erase God’s commandments. Charity has become political dictate rather than an offering out of love. Justice is under the influence of corruption. Wisdom is distorted by science. And sacrifice is scorned as an archaic idea.
When Pope Francis reiterates the message that we need to return to Christ’s gospel message he emphasizes the doctrine that “that to lead is to serve” (National Catholic Register). Today’s gospel reading from John 13:16-20 illustrates this point: “When Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, he said to them: ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.' From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."
Jesus led the way by serving. It is critical to understand this point because otherwise it is very easy to get caught up in the modern versions of virtue where being a leader may be self-serving rather than serving others, where social justice tolerates abortions, demeans religious liberty, corrupts the sanctity of marriage, and violates human freedom of conscience.
A return to gospel teachings asks us to once again unite our principles and beliefs with God’s view, and to unite with one another, and to serve one another, by adhering to Christ’s words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). It is the central message of the gospel and one that should never be distorted.

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