Engaged In The World,
But Not Of the World
There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles
commenting on today’s Gospel reading:
Man does not live alone. He is part of a civilized society and should establish collaborative relationships with others. From the need to organize the coexistence comes the need to determine the rights and duties, to give institutions, to set ways and forms to contribute to the common good. It is not easy to determine what is right: Diverse interests come into play; various objectives to achieve are envisaged. There are those who claim favors, demand privileges, and inevitable tensions arise.
To further complicate the problem, there are relations between the state system and religious institutions with their principles, norms, customs, traditions, indispensable claims. Many, feeling subjects of two competing powers—which often intrude each other, exchanging mutual accusations of pitch invasions—have a torn conscience. To resolve the conflict, there are those who choose fanatical and fundamentalist positions and attempt to impose their convictions. Those who renounce a confrontation from which they fear coming out defeated place themselves on the margins.
In the famous Letter to Diognetus, composed around the middle of the second century A.D., wise and timeless principles are suggested: “Christians neither by country, nor language, nor customs are distinguished from other people. Living in Greece and other barbarian cities, as it happened, each one must adapt himself to the customs of the place, in clothing, food, and rest. They witness to a way of wonderful and undoubtedly paradoxical social life. They live in their homeland, but as strangers; they participate in everything as citizens and detached from all things as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else and have children, but do not throw newborn babies. They share their meals, but not the bed. They dwell in the land, but they have their citizenship in heaven. They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. To put it short, as the soul is in the body, so are Christians in the world” (Letter to Diognetus, The Manners of the Christians V, VI, 1).
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Christians shine as lights in the world: exemplary citizens, consistent with their beliefs, respecting those of others.”