Gaudium et Spes 37

Gaudium et Spes 37 discusses the shadow side of progress:

Sacred Scripture teaches the human family what the experience of the ages confirms: that while human progress is a great advantage to man, it brings with it a strong temptation. For when the order of values is jumbled and bad is mixed with the good, individuals and groups pay heed solely to their own interests, and not to those of others. Thus it happens that the world ceases to be a place of true (family). In our own day, the magnified power of humanity threatens to destroy the race itself.

Lack of concern for others: the danger of the age. GS frames their analysis of the world’s sin as being that of selfishness. Not a direct rebellion against God, necessarily, but a lack of concern for those harmed by selfish actions. Recalling Matthew 22:39, Jesus did equate the two loves as being alike.

For a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested.(cf. Matt. 24:13; 13:24-30 and 36-43) Caught in this conflict, (humankind) is obliged to wrestle constantly if (it) is to cling to what is good, nor can (it) achieve (its) own integrity without great efforts and the help of God’s grace.

Always on guard, it seems. I’m struck by the likeness with addiction recovery here. Recovering addicts acknowledge they are still addicts, though in a state of recovery.

That is why Christ’s Church, trusting in the design of the Creator, acknowledges that human progress can serve (humankind’s) true happiness, yet she cannot help echoing the Apostle’s warning: “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). Here by the world is meant that spirit of vanity and malice which transforms into an instrument of sin those human energies intended for the service of God and (people).

God’s will is that human beings find happiness in their own works, but cannot find a purity of contentment outside of God.

Hence if anyone wants to know how this unhappy situation can be overcome, Christians will tell (them) that all human activity, constantly imperiled by (human) pride and deranged self-love, must be purified and perfected by the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection. For redeemed by Christ and made a new creature in the Holy Spirit, (human beings are) able to love the things themselves created by God, and ought to do so. (They) can receive them from God and respect and reverence them as flowing constantly from the hand of God. Grateful to (their) Benefactor for these creatures, using and enjoying them in detachment and liberty of spirit, (people are) led forward into a true possession of them, as having nothing, yet possessing all things.(cf. 2 Cor. 6:10) “All are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:22-23).

My reading of this is that the imitation of Christ can always be fruitfully brought into human endeavor. Love and reverence for things can express that quality God desires most strongly from the created world: gratitude. The promise is that detachment, therefore liberty, promotes true possession. I suppose the extreme counterexample is when things begin to possess us by the agency of our own sins. Thoughts?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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