Gaudium et Spes 11: To the Heart of the Document

Part I of Gaudium et Spes is entitled “The Church and Man’s Calling” And yes, we’re just getting to Part I. (Don’t be alarmed; the document contains only 93 sections.)

The People of God believes that it is led by the Lord’s Spirit, Who fills the earth. Motivated by this faith, it labors to decipher authentic signs of God’s presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires in which this People has a part along with other(s) of our age. For faith throws a new light on everything, manifests God’s design over (the total human vocation), and thus directs the mind to solutions which are fully human.

Okay. So faith is a motivating factor for looking out, not exclusively within. Note also that non-believers are part of God’s plan. And thirdly, the Church is to seek “fully human” solutions to modern challenges. What does this last point mean? Humanistic in a Christian sense, certainly. “Solutions” that treat not only the spiritual calling to which all people are invited, but also the physical and psychological aspects of the human condition.

This council, first of all, wishes to assess in this light those values which are most highly prized today and to relate them to their divine source. Insofar as they stem from endowments conferred by God on (people), these values are exceedingly good. Yet they are often wrenched from their rightful function by the taint in (the human) heart, and hence stand in need of purification.

This is constructive: looking at the values (labelled “exceedingly good”) in harmony with God, yet realizing that the taint is a problem also with believers. In this sense, Christians and non-Christians alike stand before God with certain positive values which reflect the divine, but we also stand in God’s presence as sinful beings, sharing the tendency to pervert grace and sully what God would affirm in us.

What does the Church think of (people)? What needs to be recommended for the upbuilding of contemporary society? What is the ultimate significance of human activity throughout the world? People are waiting for an answer to these questions. From the answers it will be increasingly clear that the People of God and the human race in whose midst it lives render service to each other. Thus the mission of the Church will show its religious, and by that very fact, its supremely human character.

Catch that? Mutual service to one another. A human relationship between believers and non-believers.


About catholicsensibility

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