Liturgy and Social Justice

Liturgy and Social Justice

This Sunday, September 28, is designated by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference as Social Justice Sunday. The theme for Social Justice Sunday this year is 'Faces of Poverty'.
The social justice aspect of Christian teaching and action will be emphasised in the prayers, preaching and announcements at Masses today. The link between liturgy and social justice is not something confined to Social Justice Sunday, however. The two are always bound up together.
The connection between fellowship at the Lord's table and social justice is made explicit by Paul when he denounced the hypocrisy of those who met for the Eucharist while the poorer members of the community were deprived of food.
A community that gathers to celebrate the Eucharist cannot hear the word of God and share the eucharistic meal without reflecting on what it means to live as a Christian in a world where millions go hungry every day. Breaking bread together must lead us to question a social order in which the gap between rich and poor is growing wider and which permits bread to be so readily available to some and not to others.
The link between worship and justice is evident throughout the Old Testament. ‘Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Take away from me the noise of your songs. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.’(Amos 5: 22 -24)
In today’s first reading, Ezekiel denounces the hypocrisy of those who accuse God of being unjust whilst behaving unjustly themselves.
In the New Testament there is an unbreakable bond between the Gospel and service of the poor and needy. At the heart of Jesus' message was the proclamation of the coming reign of God. This was not understood as the promise of some other-wordly reality, but as the transformation of the whole of the created earth. Jesus' words and actions broke down social barriers and declared that those who are marginalised by society will participate in Gods kingdom of justice, love and peace.
This is the central message of the Gospel reading today: to enter the kingdom of God, the religious leaders must change their minds about John, about Jesus, and even about tax collectors and prostitutes. Christians today are presented with the same challenge.
Our celebration of the Eucharist makes Jesus’ act of self-giving love on the cross present to us and points to the meaning of Christian discipleship as a life of self-giving love. To participate in the Eucharist as a sacrifice is to participate in a liturgical action that draws us into the whole sacrificial action of Christ.
To make remembrance of Christ is more than the performance of an act of worship; it is a proclamation of our willingness to take up the cross and live in the hope of the resurrection. It is to accept that our life is bound to the life of one who was given over to death, at the hands of the powerful, for the love of others.
The community that celebrates Eucharist is compelled to seek justice for all God's creation and work for the transformation of a society that oppresses and victimises.

Elizabeth Harrington