Liturgy and Social Justice

Liturgy And Social Justice

This Sunday, September 28, is designated in Churches around Australia as 'Social Justice Sunday'. The social justice aspect of Christian teaching and action will be emphasised in the prayers, preaching and announcements at Masses today.
Liturgy and social justice do not go together only on Social Justice Sunday, however. They are bonded together, like two sides of the one coin.
The community that gathers to celebrate the eucharist cannot hear the word of God and share the eucharistic bread and cup 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 clearly evident in the Hebrew scriptures. 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 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 otherwordly 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.
The connection between fellowship at the Lord's table and social justice is made explicit by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. He points out the hypocrisy of the assembly that meets for the eucharist while the poorer members of the community are deprived of food. A similar perspective is expressed by James, as heard at Sunday Mass just three weeks ago. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes…
Our celebration of the eucharist makes God's act of self-giving love in the cross of Jesus 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 to accept living under the sign of the cross and 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.
In the eucharist, we give thanks for the gifts of creation. The community that celebrates eucharist then is compelled to seek justice for all God's creation and work for the transformation of a society that oppresses and victimises.


Elizabeth Harrington