Gaudium et Spes 10

The lengthy introductory section of Gaudium et Spes concludes with this section.

The truth is that the imbalances under which the modern world labors are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart(s) of (people). For in (the person) many elements wrestle with one another. Thus, on the one hand, as a creature (they experience their) limitations in a multitude of ways; on the other (they feel themselves) to be boundless in (their) desires and summoned to a higher life.

The balance of our creatureliness, our mortality, our sinfulness, if you will and the call to realize the potential of having been created in the divine image.

Pulled by manifold attractions (they are) constantly forced to choose among them and renounce some. Indeed, as weak and sinful beings, (they) often do what (they) would not, and fail to do what (they) would.

St Paul said it so well, of course, capsulizing the very nature of addiction, compulsion, and all the graded steps from these terminal conditions to that of the freedom offered in Christ.

Hence (they suffer) from internal divisions, and from these flow so many and such great discords in society. No doubt many whose lives are infected with a practical materialism are blinded against any sharp insight into this kind of dramatic situation; or else, weighed down by unhappiness they are prevented from giving the matter any thought. Thinking they have found serenity in an interpretation of reality everywhere proposed these days, many look forward to a genuine and total emancipation of humanity wrought solely by human effort; they are convinced that the future rule of (humanity) over the earth will satisfy every desire of (their) hearts. Nor are there lacking (those) who despair of any meaning to life and praise the boldness of those who think that human existence is devoid of any inherent significance and strive to confer a total meaning on it by their own ingenuity alone.

The Church takes a useful and compassionate tack here: appealing to the fruitlessness of establishing one’s own happiness. A sensibly adult approach which resonates (in my thinking) with Luke’s father of two sons (15:11ff). The younger son’s crudity is shocking, but the father gives the son his freedom. He does so to allow him discover for himself and come to his own conclusions about his place in life. Wrenching as it may be, parents must let go. A returning child does so for her or his own good and well-learned reasons. That seems to me to be the genius of the Gaudium et Spes approach: the Church awaits you.

Nevertheless, in the face of the modern development of the world, the number constantly swells of the people who raise the most basic questions of recognize them with a new sharpness: what is (humankind)? What is this sense of sorrow, of evil, of death, which continues to exist despite so much progress? What purpose have these victories purchased at so high a cost? What can (a person) offer to society, what can (a person) expect from it? What follows this earthly life?

Does the Church have these answers? I think so. I’d hope I’d be able to communicate them. And as disciples and self-styled Christians, the very least of our abilities should be able to respond to these basic questions about existence.

The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all,(2) can through His Spirit offer (people) the light and the strength to measure up to (their) supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to (them) by which it is fitting for (them) to be saved.

(The Church) likewise holds that in (our) most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of (the person), as well as of all human history.

Can’t get more explicit than that.

The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.

No relativism here.

Hence under the light of Christ, the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of every creature, the council wishes to speak to all (people) in order to shed light on the mystery of (humanity) and to cooperate in finding the solution to the outstanding problems of our time.

And so the preface material concludes. One might conclude the spirit of openness to the world, to non-believers, is a quiet and confident approach. We don’t need to hammer away with our beliefs because we hold them as self-evident.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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