The thrust of this write up is that, the systematic study of our faith and its application in the daily life in the different thematic domains that have subsequently arisen therefrom, apart from bequeathing the whole corpus of faith and faith formation with an appreciable depth and better understanding, it has sometime on flip side inadvertently resulted to gross misunderstanding that is inhibiting the evangelization and faith formation process that it is meant to enhance.
Compartmentalization, what is it?
It is for lack of a better word that I choose the word compartmentalization to refer to this trend. A trend whereby certain faith departments or components are understood, practiced and taught as if they are essentially super-ordinate , standalone and un-interacting vis a vis other faith departments or disciplines, while reflecting on the subject of God, man , faith formation and reality.
The Social Vs the Spiritual or the Social-Spiritual?
Donald Dorr captures this very well as he observers that ‘many of those who are concerned about Social Justice find themselves reacting against the traditional spirituality. They believe it lacks a social dimension: it seems to them to presume and promote an individualistic understanding of faith. They also find it escapist at times – encouraging the Christian to look for salivation outside this world or in some interior, purely spiritual dimension of it
On the other hand, many of those who are most concerned with spirituality find themselves reacting against promoters of social justice. While admiring thos who dedicate their lives to working on justice, they perceive in many of them a lack of serenity a restless activism and at times a smoldering anger which can be destructive of themselves and others.
Reductionism and Integrative Approach
The danger of reductionism and extremism is very real and very visible not just on matters of faith and evangelization but on many other issues. What is of pith and moment is to find an integrative or holistic way of looking at these domains. Faith and justice, the sacraments and social justice, liturgy and social justice, social justice and scriptures, contemplation and social justice, catechetical instruction and catholic social teaching as well as spirituality and social justice are not mutually exclusive to the extent that they are understood from an evangelization stand point. The pursuit of one does not preclude the other. Actually, one can best be understood with the other.
Evengelii Nuntiandi and integral evangelization
Evangelization, in the words of Paul VI Evengelii Nuntiandi, is a complex process made up of varied elements: the renewal of humanity, witness, explicit proclamation, inner adherence, entry into the community, acceptance of signs, apostolic initiative. He further observes that ….But evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social. This is why evangelization involves an explicit message, adapted to the different situations constantly being realized, about the rights and duties of every human being, about family life without which personal growth and development is hardly possible, about life in society, about international life, peace, justice and development- a message especially energetic today about liberation.
These elements may appear to be contradictory, indeed mutually exclusive. In fact they are complementary and mutually enriching. Each one must always be seen in relationship with the others. Finally, he observes that ‘the value of the last Synod was to have constantly invited us to relate these elements rather than to place them in opposition one to the other, in order to reach a full understanding of the Church’s evangelizing activity.
This brief exploration brings into a sharp focus the disservice that we do to the whole process of evangelization and faith formation when some of its integral constitutive elements are inflated, diminished or excluded all together. It is in this respect that the Synod of World Bishops categorically stated in the 1971document Justice in the World that ‘action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation. This has several implications the fundamental being a call to a paradigmatic shift in evangelization and its other vital components. Succumbing to a ‘Paul –Apollo’ syndrome vis a vis evangelization and its constituents elements defeats the very purpose for which evangelization and faith formation is meant to serve.