The following essay is adapted from the pope’s preface to Fraternità—segno dei tempi: il magistero sociale di Papa Francesco by Cardinal Michael Czerny and Fr. Christian Barone, which will be published in Italy by Libreria Editrice Vaticana on September 30. The English-language version, Siblings All, Sign of the Times: The Social Teaching of Pope Francis, will be published by Orbis Books in 2022.
The heart of the Gospel is the proclamation of the Reign of God, in the person of Jesus himself, the Emmanuel, God-Is-With-Us. In him, God brings his project of love for humanity to fulfillment, establishing his lordship over creatures and sowing the seed of divine life in human history, transforming it from within.
Certainly the Reign of God should not be identified or confused with some earthly or political achievement. Nor should it be envisioned as a purely interior reality, one that is merely personal and spiritual, or as a promise that concerns only the world to come. Instead, Christian faith lives by a fascinating and compelling “paradox,” a word very dear to the Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac. It is what Jesus, forever joined with our flesh, is accomplishing here and now, opening us up to God the Father, bringing about an ongoing liberation in our lives, for in him the Reign of God has already drawn near (Mark 1:12–15). At the same time, for as long as we exist in this flesh, God’s reign remains a promise, a deep yearning that we carry within us, a cry that arises from a creation still marred by evil, one that suffers and groans until the day of its full liberation (Romans 8:19–24).
Therefore the Reign announced by Jesus is a living and dynamic reality. It invites us to conversion, asking our faith to emerge from the stasis of an individual religiosity or from its reduction to legalism. It wants our faith to become instead a continuous and restless searching for the Lord and his Word, one that calls us each to cooperate with the work of God in different situations of life and society. In different ways, often anonymous and silent, even in the history of our failures and our woundedness, the Reign of God is coming true in our hearts and in events happening around us. Like a small seed hidden in the earth (Matthew 13:31–32), like a bit of yeast that leavens the dough (Matthew 13:24–30), Jesus brings into our life story the signs of the new life he has come to start, asking us to work together with him in this task of salvation. Every one of us can contribute to realizing the work of the Reign of God on earth, opening up spaces of salvation and liberation, sowing hope, challenging the deadly logics of egoism with the brotherly and sisterly spirit of the Gospel, dedicating ourselves in tenderness and solidarity for the benefit of our neighbors, especially the poorest.
We must never neutralize this social dimension of the Christian faith. As I mentioned also in Evangelii gaudium, the kerygma or proclamation of the Christian faith itself has a social dimension. It invites us to build a society where the logic of the Beatitudes and of a fraternal world of solidarity triumphs. The God Who Is Love, who in Jesus invites us to live out the commandment of sibling love, heals with that same love both our personal and social relationships, calling us to be peacemakers and builders of sisterhood and brotherhood among ourselves:
The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that He reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace, and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society (Evangelii gaudium, 180).
In this sense, caring for our Mother Earth and building a society of solidarity as fratelli tutti or siblings all are not only not foreign to our faith; they are a concrete realization of it.