Gaudium et Spes 57

Gaudium et Spes 57 deals with section 2 (Some Principles for the Proper Development of Culture) of chapter 2 of part II (if you can follow that at home). First, setting one’s sights on heaven is seen as a motivating factor, not one for withdrawal from the world:

Christians, on pilgrimage toward the heavenly city, should seek and think of these things which are above (Cf. Col. 3:2) This duty in no way decreases, rather it increases, the importance of their obligation to work with all … in the building of a more human world. Indeed, the mystery of the Christian faith furnishes them with an excellent stimulant and aid to fulfill this duty more courageously and especially to uncover the full meaning of this activity, one which gives to human culture its eminent place in the integral (human) vocation.

A twofold notion in the next paragraph: beings stewards of creation, and being caretakers of one’s brothers and sisters:

When (humankind) develops the earth by the work of (their) hands or with the aid of technology, in order that it might bear fruit and become a dwelling worthy of the whole human family and when (they) consciously take part in the life of social groups, (they carry) out the design of God manifested at the beginning of time, that (they) should subdue the earth, perfect creation and develop (themselves). (Cf. Gen. 1:28) At the same time (they obey) the commandment of Christ that (they) place (themselves) at the service of (others).

Outside of the sacred sphere, there are human endeavors which contribute to the “elevation” of humanity on their own merits (namely the qualities of truth, goodness, and beauty):

Furthermore, when (humankind) gives … to the various disciplines of philosophy, history and of mathematical and natural science, and when (they) cultivate the arts, (they) can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. Thus (hu)mankind may be more clearly enlightened by that marvelous Wisdom which was with God from all eternity, composing all things with him, rejoicing in the earth, delighting in the (children of earth).( Cf. Prov. 8:30-31.)

These values do indeed lead people to the spiritual:

In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. Moreover, by the impulse of grace, (they are) disposed to acknowledge the Word of God, Who before He became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in Himself was already “in the world” as “the true light which enlightens every man” (John 1:9-10).(Cf. St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses. III, 11, 8 (ed. Sagnard p. 200; cf. ibid., 16, 6: pp. 290-292; 21, 10-22: pp. 370-372; 22 3: p. 378; etc.))

Yet, the bishops provide an appropriate caution, namely that the material realm is not the ultimate expression of creation, that there is more than what meets the eye in nature, and that scientific advances are not cause for divorcing human dependence on God:

Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and an agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that (people), confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that (they are) sufficient unto (themselves) and no longer seek the higher things.

And a caution against those who would more or less reject cultural progress outright:

Those unfortunate results, however, do not necessarily follow from the culture of today, nor should they lead us into the temptation of not acknowledging its positive values.

And a helpful five-point listing of modern values:

Among these values are included:

    • scientific study and fidelity toward truth in scientific inquiries,
    • the necessity of working together with others in technical groups,
    • a sense of international solidarity,
    • a clearer awareness of the responsibility of experts to aid and even to protect (people),
    • the desire to make the conditions of life more favorable for all, especially for those who are poor in culture or who are deprived of the opportunity to exercise responsibility.

Section 57 concludes with the candid admission that these human values often lay the groundwork for the acceptance of Christ.

All of these provide some preparation for the acceptance of the message of the Gospel a preparation which can be animated by divine charity through Him Who has come to save the world.

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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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