Francis indicated at the beginning of the catechesis that he would do it under a triple focus: the message of the Gospel, the theological virtues and the social doctrine of the Church. And in this triple key he shows himself to be an excellent teacher and catechist of the faith. Moreover, no doubt in this way he has been preparing for the publication of his new encyclical on fraternity (Fratelli tutti).
Christ brings healing and salvation
In the first catechesis, the Pope explained how the kingdom of God brings with it, at the same time, healing and salvation; and is manifested in faith, hope and love. The healing speaks to us about our physical, spiritual and social illnesses. Jesus dealt with all these dimensions of the sick. For example, when healing the paralytic of Capernaum (cf. Mk 2:1-12)
"Christ's action is a direct response to the faith of these people, to the hope they place in him, to the love they show for one another. And so Jesus heals, but he does not simply heal paralysis, he heals everything, he forgives sins, he renews the life of the paralytic and his friends. He is born again, let's put it this way. A physical and spiritual healing, all together, fruit of a personal and social encounter." (General Audience5-VIII-2020)
How to help heal our world? The Church, which as an institution is not responsible for dealing with health issues or giving socio-political indications in this regard, has developed some social principles that help in the healing - we could say integral - of people, while at the same time inviting them to open themselves to the salvation offered by the Christian message. The main ones are: "the principle of the dignity of the person, the principle of the common good, the principle of the preferential option for the poor, the principle of the universal destination of goods, the principle of solidarity, of subsidiarity, the principle of care for our common home." (Ibid.)
Faith and dignity, hope and economy
In the second catechesis (Faith and human dignityAugust 12), Francis pointed out that the pandemic is not the only disease to be combated, as it has brought to light other diseases. "social pathologies"on the basis of an individualistic and throwaway culturewhich reduces the human being to "a consumer good". This is a way of forgetting the human dignity, which is based on the creation of man as the image and likeness of God. This fundamental dignity of every person is the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (of 1948), as recognized not only by believers but by many people of good will. And human dignity has serious social, economic and political implications and promotes attitudes such as care, concern and compassion.
He then focused on the preferential option for the poor and the virtue of charityas two "means" proposed by Christianity (August 19, 2020). The first -he strongly emphasized- is not a political, ideological or party option, but is at the heart of the Gospel. The life of Jesus, his teachings and his followers are recognized as the most important of all. "by his closeness to the poor, to the little ones, to the sick and the imprisoned, to the excluded, to the forgotten, to those who are deprived of food and clothing." (cf. Mt 25:31-36), and with that parameter we will all be judged.
"Faith, hope and love necessarily push us towards this preference for the most needy, which goes beyond the purely necessary assistance. It implies in fact walking together, letting ourselves be evangelized by them, who know well the suffering Christ, letting ourselves be 'infected' by their experience of salvation, their wisdom and their creativity.".
Therefore, it is necessary to work to heal and change the "sick social structures"because "From the pandemic, as from any crisis, we come out better or worse". And we would like to come out better. "It would be sad if the vaccine for Covid-19 were to give priority to the rich! [...] There are criteria for choosing which industries to help: those that contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the last, to the common good and to the care of creation. Four criteria".
The fourth day - August 26 - was focused on the universal destination of assets and the virtue of hope. An economy is sick if it promotes "the sin of wanting to possess, of wanting to dominate brothers and sisters, of wanting to possess and dominate nature and God himself".. The subordination of the legitimate right to private property to the universal destination of goods is a 'golden rule' of the social-ethical order (cfr. Laudato si', 93).
Do I think about the needs of others?
The following week - September 2 - the pope returned to the virtue of faith, this time in connection with solidarity. Solidarity is not only about helping others, but it is also a matter of justice, with "strong roots in the human and in nature created by God.". In the biblical story of Babel, what prevailed was the desire to win at the cost of instrumentalizing people; at Pentecost, the opposite is true: harmony triumphs, because each person serves as an instrument to build the community. The key question is: "Do I think about the needs of others?".
Subsequently, he discussed love and the common good. The Christian response to the pandemic and the ensuing socio-economic crises is based on love. And love is expansive and inclusive, reaching out to all, to civic and political relationships, and also to enemies.
"The coronavirus shows us that the true good for everyone is the common good, not just (the) individual good - of people, companies or nations - and, vice versa, the common good is a true good for the person." (cfr. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1905-1906). A virus that knows no barriers must be met with a love that knows no barriers. And this must be translated into social structures. But the common good is, to begin with, the task of each and every one of us. And for Christians it is also a mission.
"Christians, especially the lay faithful, are called to bear good witness to this and can do so thanks to the virtue of charity, cultivating its intrinsic social dimension.". Each one must manifest it in his daily life, even in the smallest gestures.
Care and contemplation
In the seventh catechesis he focused on care of the common home and contemplative attitude. Care for the sick, the elderly and the weak must be associated with care for the earth and its creatures. And for that, as the encyclical teaches Laudato si', contemplation is necessary. Without it, it is easy to fall in "the unbalanced and arrogant anthropocentrism". that turns us into despot dominators over others and over the earth. "Those who do not know how to contemplate nature and creation do not know how to contemplate people in their richness. And those who live to exploit nature end up exploiting people and treating them as slaves.".
Instead, Francisco assures, "the contemplative in action tends to become a guardian of the environment [...], trying to combine ancestral knowledge of millenary cultures with new technical knowledge, so that our lifestyle is always sustainable.". That is why contemplating and caring are two fundamental attitudes. And it is not enough to say "well, I'll make do": "The problem is not how you manage, today; the problem is: what will be the inheritance, the life of the future generation?". It is important to contemplate in order to heal, protect and leave a legacy for those who come after us.