Brothers and Sisters All in Transforming the World

Emotions can be powerful forces of destruction. Our news media is filled with stories of people who wreak havoc on society when emotions are not directed appropriately. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), whose feast was celebrated on January 28, highlighted the impact of the emotion of desire when it dominates a person’s life. The saint identified wealth, power, pleasure and honour as categories of addictive desire. Those whose lives are ruled by their addiction to power, wealth, pleasure and honour, create injustice in our society. 

Fr Joseph Cardijn was well aware of the impact of addictive desires on society. He identified the development of technology as transformative, but drew attention to the negative effects of such development on society. In his keynote address to the delegates gathered in Rome for the World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, in October, 1951, Cardijn outlined the positive and negative effects of the transformation of society because of technology. The unequal distribution of technological advances globally “pose problems of responsibility, of equity, of social justice, and, above all, problems of education and formation.” 

The injustices that Cardijn identified in society in the first half of the twentieth century can be found in our world today, despite the further advances in technology. In his letter Fratelli Tutti (2020), Pope Francis tells us that the struggle for justice and peace has to be taken up by each generation and renewed each day. The proactive attitude of the apostles, of Joseph Cardijn, of Pope Francis and of all the saints is what Jesus expects of his disciples. 

The Gospel for the Mass of today recounts the story from Mark’s Gospel (5:1-20) about the man possessed by evil spirits and banished from his community. The evil spirits felt at home in the district in which the man lived. Jesus provides a creative solution. He drives the spirits out of the man and into a herd of pigs tended by Jews living in the area. The pigs drown in the lake and the townspeople ask Jesus to leave the territory. When Jesus’ disciples work together to restore justice, Jesus stands in solidarity with them, even when they experience failure. 

There is within each one of us the desire for peace and justice, the desire for unity, the desire to love one another and to be loved. Pope Francis calls us to action, but not to individualism. Cardijn worked with young lay people to found a movement to work for the coming of God’s kingdom. Who works today to counter the work of those who seek to consolidate their power and wealth at the expense of those who are powerless? What can we do to help them in their work? 


Pat Branson


Keynote Address, World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, 1951

Pope Francis (2020). Fratelli Tutti 

Readings for Mass for Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1