because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. (Lk 4:18-19)
Objective: To strengthen the commitment to solidarity and social justice.
In this land of plenty it is often too easy to forget that not all people have what they need each day. Many folks throughout the world lack the basics of shelter, food and clean water. What does this have to do with us? How are we called to proclaim justice to a world where resources are not distributed evenly?
Welcome and Prayer (15 minutes)
Welcome the participants and ask them to briefly introduce themselves. Start the session with a simple prayer; include an uplifting song, such as "Where the Spirit Is" or "Melodies from Heaven" from Kirk Franklin's Whatcha Looking 4.
Sharing Our Experiences (40 minutes)
Present generations are witnessing an unprecedented economic development in human history. Never before have we produced so many material goods. However, a simple glance at the news is enough to realize that the number of poor people is growing daily, even in rich countries like the United States. The ordinary worker in this country earns less and works more hours than twenty years ago. Many farm workers lack basic benefits and earn a poverty wage. Thousands of new immigrants work in slavery conditions in the notorious "sweatshops." In developing countries, unemployment and poverty affect millions of families and threaten to affect millions more as we begin the third millennium. The majority of poor people in the world are women and children. Moreover, their cry for help must be joined with that of the millions of unborn babies and those who die for lack of medicine and other medical resources. In the complex economy of today's world, it is difficult to see clearly what constitutes the just distribution of wealth and how to achieve it in different situations. For this reason, it is important to know and understand the economic reality we live in and approach it with critical eyes. This undertaking is vital in a world marked by so much economic inequality (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 51). The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, with its message of solidarity and justice, is an ideal opportunity to be good news for the poorest and most vulnerable of our society. The social teaching of the Catholic Church and its call to solidarity are a great resource to do so.
- How do you define your community? Who are your neighbors?
- If poverty exists in your community, what are the factors that cause it?
- How does your faith community respond to the needs of the community?
Reflecting on Our Faith Tradition (40 minutes)
The reality of poverty, especially in the midst of riches, is a problem that concerns us all. The concern for the economic well-being of all the members of the community is clearly reflected in the Acts of the Apostles: "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need" (Acts 2:44-45). The Church has a long tradition of promoting justice and defending the poorest and most vulnerable. This tradition is based on gospel values and is expressed in the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of each person is the basis of all the principles in the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. This implies that people are more important than things and that the economy should be at the service of people and not the other way around. It implies that social institutions ought to be judged by whether they threaten or contribute to the improvement of personal life and dignity. The Church teaches that the role of government and other social institutions is above all to promote the common good of all its members. The bishops of the United States, in their document Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions, emphasize the following principles as a guide to a better understanding and living of the social teaching of the Church:
- Everyone has the right and the responsibility to participate in society and to seek the well-being of all its members.
- Everyone has the right to life and to those goods needed for human decency—including dignified labor, a just wage, decent housing, education that respects cultural origins, and access to health care for all age levels (The Hispanic Presence in the New Evangelization in the United States, no. 22).
- The moral character of a society is determined by the way in which the most vulnerable are treated. The biblical passage of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) shows us clearly that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are to be placed first.
- The basic rights of workers must be protected. These include the right to work productively, to receive just and decent wages, to organize and form unions, to own private property, and to carry out economic initiatives.
- We are called to protect human life and the planet on which we live, to witness to our faith in relationship to all of God's creation. This ecological challenge has a moral dimension that cannot be ignored.
- How does your faith community advocate for and actively promote these principles of Catholic Social Teaching?
- How do you reflect these principles in your daily experience of life?
- How can you bring these principles into reality?
- What needs to change in order to live these principles more faithfully?
Putting Our Faith into Action (40 minutes)
The virtue of solidarity is defined by John Paul II as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 38). When our faith community brings good news to the poor and vulnerable of our society, it bears witness to a church of solidarity that is the promoter and model of justice. In his apostolic exhortation, The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World (Christifideles Laici), Pope John Paul II emphasizes the importance of the laity assuming the responsibilities of the faith in the world of the family and in the professional, economic, political, and cultural realms. In this way faith and life will not be unduly separated (Christifideles Laici, no. 2). Commitment to justice and peace is a necessary condition for our life of faith.
- Introduce the "Jubilee Pledge" as an excellent way to promote actions of solidarity and social justice by individuals and communities. The pledge is designed to aid and strengthen the personal and communitarian commitment to justice, charity, and peace.
- Invite participants to consider taking the pledge. The pledge is more than the mere signing of a piece of paper. It is a commitment to daily action for justice, in a spirit of solidarity.
- Consider taking the pledge also as a family or even as an entire faith community.
Gathering Our Experiences (15 minutes)
- What helped you participate in this session and what made it difficult?
- What did you learn and accept about others?
- What did you learn about your faith?
- How did people make a commitment to implement a course of action?
Celebrating Our Faith as a Community (25 minutes)
- Opening hymn/song
- Invocation or invitation to prayer
- Scriptural reading
- Prayer of thanksgiving or petition
- The Lord's Prayer
- Final prayer and sign of peace
- Closing hymn
A Catholic Commitment for the New Millennium
As disciples of Jesus in the new millennium, I/we pledge to:
Pray regularly for greater justice and peace.
Learn more about Catholic social teaching and its call to protect human life, stand with the poor, and care for creation.
Reach across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and disabling conditions.
Live justly in family life, school, work, the marketplace, and the political arena.
Serve those who are poor and vulnerable, sharing more time and talent.
Give more generously to those in need at home and abroad.
Advocate for public policies that protect human life, promote human dignity, preserve God's creation, and build peace.
Encourage others to work for greater charity, justice, and peace.
Prepared by the Subcommittee on the Third Millennium and other committees of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference
Copyright © 1998, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction of the pledge for free distribution.
For more information on this Jubilee Pledge visit:
For Those Attending WYD 2000
It is in our gathering with the international community that we experience the diversity of our Catholic faith tradition. We may not even notice that there will be young men and women with us in Rome who took on hardship to attend such a gathering. How will this celebration of faith remind us that we need live in solidarity with those in the world who have less?
- Do I take what I have for granted? How do I become more thankful as well as willing to share what I own?
- Have I been swallowed up into the consumerism that plagues the US? How can I get a handle on this?
- What is the difference between "want" and "need"? Where do I confuse the two in my own life?
- How do I become a better steward of my resources and effect change in my word?