I got distracted by the latest Commonweal (major piece by LTJ there. Oy, more reading), but finally got to reading Part II of the Encyclical. Oh wow. There's so much there! And again, I'm taken aback by how simple the message is, and just how powerful and beautiful it is.
The Church institutionalizes love. Justice and charity are not opposed. Everyone needs love. the Church's "charity workers" must be on fire with love. The Church is not into politics, even as she influences society and forms consciences. A solid critique of Marxism -- it was loveless and utilitarian! Evangelization is not proselytism -- workers need to know the difference. We are not God. We cannot change the world. Yet our suffering cries to heaven! A reflection on Job. The saints are our models. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Saint Martin of Tours. And most preminently, Mary, our mother. The very conclusion is breathtakingly Marian, and, at the same time, Christocentric.
And -- oh how delicious -- the first pope to quote Julian the apostate, and positively!
Here's some bits from Part II:
With regard to the personnel who carry out the Church's charitable activity on the practical level, the essential has already been said: they must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). [#33]I'm going to stop. I need to sleep on this. There will be tons of reflections out there in the blogosphere for sure. Right now, digestion. Rereading tomorrow. And avoiding reading other reflections for a while ...
Saint Paul, in his hymn to charity (cf. 1 Cor 13), teaches us that it is always more than activity alone: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (v. 3). This hymn must be the Magna Carta of all ecclesial service; it sums up all the reflections on love which I have offered throughout this Encyclical Letter. Practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ. [#34]
Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). We should continue asking this question in prayerful dialogue before his face: “Lord, holy and true, how long will it be?” (Rev 6:10). It is Saint Augustine who gives us faith's answer to our sufferings: “Si comprehendis, non est Deus”—”if you understand him, he is not God.”  Our protest is not meant to challenge God, or to suggest that error, weakness or indifference can be found in him. For the believer, it is impossible to imagine that God is powerless or that “perhaps he is asleep” (cf. 1 Kg 18:27). Instead, our crying out is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power. Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God” (Tit 3:4).[#38]
Let me just share the closing prayer directed to Our Lady, seemingly composed by the Holy Father himself:
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.