Justice & Spirituality

Human-RightsJustice came up at a church visioning meeting recently. A small group gathered in my study with the purpose of discerning how our community might reach out more to our neighbors both to serve and know us as a community and what we offer. My mentioning “social justice” led to some interesting conversation about sensibilities and sensitivities around the church’s voice in the life of church members and in the world at large.

A few weeks later I was talking with a group of 9th graders who will be confirming their baptismal vows later this spring. Our workshop topic included Lent and what the season invites us to focus on. The classic Christian practices of Lent are fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. The young Confirmands asked: “what’s almsgiving?!”

Talking to them about charitable acts of giving and spiritual practices led me back to the earlier conversation about working for justice. It led me to wonder more about our responsibilities as Christians of conscience and reminded me again of the schism some see between spirituality and justice.

Then preparing for prayer circle one week, I happened to read this:

Spirituality is not meant to be self-absorption, a cocoon-like relationship of “God and me.” In the long run, if it is to have meaning, if it is to grow and not wither, it must be a wellspring of compassionate living. It must reach out to others as God has reached out to us. True spirituality breaks down the walls of our souls and lets in not just heaven, but the whole world.*

This passage articulated so well a sense of both-and. That as disciples, we need to deepen our spirituality continually so that we might increasingly see the world as God does and reach out with Christly-compassion.

When I look at the example of Christ’s ministry, I see someone who had a deep and abiding connection to God through prayer and mindful-living. And I also see someone who acted bravely in the face of injustice and who advocated for the marginalized and oppressed.

I pray my – our – journey through Lent would lead us into the heart of God and then out into the world. Amen.
* Kirvan, John, ed. Let Nothing Disturb You: Teresa of Avila. Ave Maria Press: Indiana, 2008.

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