100 taste ‘biblical flavor of justice’ at Social Ministry Institute

It’s true that God created the world and all that is in it and while that is enough to inspire wonder and awe for a lifetime, it is only part of the story.

What people may overlook is that God’s first act was to establish that new world in an order of justice, where harmony and right relationships prevailed.

“Through God’s creative spirit, disorder and chaos are dispelled by life and order and fertility and abundance for all,” according to Father Donald Senior, CP, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and one of three keynote speakers at last Saturday’s Institute for Catholic Social Ministry.

“Sin from the Bible’s opening vantage point is injustice, violating right relationship to God, bringing violence and treachery into the human arena,” said Father Senior.

More than 100 people from parishes around central Illinois gathered at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria to get a taste of “the biblical flavor of justice” and consider what people of faith owe to one another, to their communities and to the planet as a result of that justice.

IN ADDITION to Father Senior, participants heard from Sister Cathleen Real, CHM, of Davenport, Iowa, who spoke about “The Burning Truth of the Climate Crisis,” and Dr. David O’Connell, professor of management studies at St. Ambrose University, who stepped in for Dr. Dan Ebener to talk about servant leadership.

The institute was planned and hosted by the diocese’s co-moderators of social justice, Msgr. Doug Hennessy, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington, and Father Richard Bresnahan of Moline. It was sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

In his talk, “The Bible and the Social Mission of the Church,” Father Senior said the issues pressing in on people today — including health care, immigration, violence and what’s happening in the Middle East — “make the social mission of the church a powerful and urgent task.”

“JUSTICE and peace, while distinguishable, are not separate in the biblical perspective,” he explained. “Peace in many ways is the fruit of justice and, at the same time, its vital context. As we know peace can only come with justice and there will be no justice where violence rules.”

On the other hand, justice is a fundamental, pervasive concept in the Bible, Father Senior said. He noted that the Hebrew words tzedek (just) or tzedakah (justice or righteousness) can be found more than 500 times in biblical literature in a variety of contexts.

“If the biblical story is any story at all, it is a story of justice and a yearning for peace,” he said.

WHILE SISTER Cathleen Real presented sobering news about climate change to those gathered at the Spalding Pastoral Center, she also offered some practical suggestions for making the environment more sustainable for current and future generations.

She said she feared that people had heard so many facts about global warming, the melting polar ice caps, and the prevalence of forest fires, flooding, and destructive storms, that they are like frogs in a beaker of warm water — they will remain there until rescued.

“We need to be rescued,” Sister Cathleen said, suggesting that communities start by making sure children are getting out into nature for their health and their understanding of why the environment is so precious.
Reducing, reusing and recycling are other winning strategies. Among these is “drinking prudently” by purchasing water bottles that are intended for more than one use.

Carpooling, using public transportation or riding a bike, and buying more efficient cars will help reduce carbon emissions, she added.

Sister Cathleen also pointed to wind turbines as clean and renewable energy sources and said geothermal heating and cooling, which uses or repels the heat stored by the earth, shows promise.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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