The work of transforming the world begins at home. Recent research conducted into Catholic school staff members’ perceptions of the mission of their school showed that the sense of mission began long before those interviewed began their work in the school. Their sense of mission was nurtured in their homes. Their wanting the best for their students reflected their parents wanting the best for them. For all of them, “the best” was connected in some way with God.
Elise Kinsella, an ABC journalist living in Melbourne, posted an article on air pollution, a silent killer in Australia. She chose as her starting point in the article the experience of one man living below the West Gate Freeway. Drawing on the findings of research in Australia and overseas, she paints a picture of a society in danger and provides some solutions that have been proposed by scientists and people engaged in industry and commerce.
Kinsella’s article can be seen as an example of the need to engage the truth of experience. In a talk he gave in 1935, Fr Joseph Cardijn defined the truth of experience as “The terrible contradiction which exists between the real state of the young workers and this eternal and temporal destiny.” I would like to broaden the perspective to include the whole of society and every person’s terrible contradiction which exists between what they experience and their eternal and temporal destiny. Kinsella describes some insights into aspects of people’s temporal destiny and the reality of air pollution impacting ordinary people’s lives. Sadly, I could not detect an awareness of our eternal destiny.
Cardijn reminded his listeners of the experience of life in Europe, which he described as “a wave of neo-paganism unexampled in history.” The danger of pursuing one’s temporal destiny is to lose sight of one’s eternal destiny. Cardijn’s perspective is incarnational: just as people’s temporal destiny is rooted in their immersion totally in life, so, too, is their eternal destiny. The transformation of people’s temporal existence will only be achieved when they come to accept and seek their eternal destiny in their everyday lives. As Cardijn said in his talk, “We must remain with our eyes fixed to heaven and our feet on the earth….”
The mission Jesus accepted from his Father was to announce the presence of God in the world. To prepare himself for his mission, Jesus spent forty days fasting and praying. In the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A, we learn from Matthew (4:1-11) that Jesus was tempted by the devil to accept the temporal destiny described by the devil and to reject his eternal destiny. Jesus knew that his life received its meaning from the presence of God in his life. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” he said to the devil.
The temporal destiny of every person, which I have interpreted to be the very best for each and every person, will come about when we attend to “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” But how can we do this? Perhaps Lent is timely, with its emphasis on fasting, prayer and almsgiving. One possible source for action might well be a personal examination of the habits that prevent us from listening to God. The truth that familiarity breeds contempt can apply equally to the eternal and the temporal dimensions of our lives. Starting at home, meaning beginning the process with what happens in our daily lives has proven to be helpful to so many saints. Why not us also?
Read more …
Air pollution causes thousands of deaths in Australia each year. Residents and scientists are fighting back, by Elise Kinsella. ABC News, 25 February, 2023.
The Three Truths – Joseph Cardijn. In the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library.