Gaudium et Spes 13

This section of Gaudium et Spes summarizes the Catholic approach to sin as it manifests itself in human beings. First the presumption that a state of holiness is a state of human liberty:

Although … made by God in a state of holiness, from the very onset of history (human beings) abused (this) liberty, at the urging of the Evil One. (Humanity set itself) against God and sought to attain (their) goal apart from God. Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, but their senseless minds were darkened and they served the creature rather than the Creator.(Cf. Rom. 1:21-25) What divine revelation makes known to us agrees with experience. Examining (its) heart, (humanity finds that they have) inclinations toward evil too, and (are) engulfed by manifold ills which cannot come from (their) good Creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as (their) beginning, (people have) disrupted also (their) proper relationship to (their) own ultimate goal as well as (the) whole relationship toward (themselves) and others and all created things.

And so the Church rightly teaches that the search for holiness is central to curing the various ills sin has brought upon the world in the material realm: war, famine, poverty, and the rest.

What follows next is the description of the inner turmoil of human beings–the struggle between good and evil. The struggle is not a successful solo adventure:

Therefore (human beings are) split within (themselves). As a result, all of human life, whether individual or collective, shows itself to be a dramatic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. Indeed, (people find) that by (themselves they are) incapable of battling the assaults of evil successfully, so that everyone feels as though he (or she) is bound by chains. 

And the answer? Jesus Christ.

But the Lord Himself came to free and strengthen (human beings), renewing (them) inwardly and casting out that “prince of this world” (John 12:31) who held (them) in the bondage of sin.(Cf. John 8:34) For sin has diminished (humankind), blocking (the) path to fulfillment.

The call to grandeur and the depths of misery, both of which are a part of human experience, find their ultimate and simultaneous explanation in the light of this revelation.

There is the temptation, even for Christians, that individuals can do it alone. The Church’s wisdom would suggest not; that the individual human being is so tortured and conflicted that the darkness is an inevitable part of any undertaking.

“I have the best of intentions, but I fail so miserably”

This is one point of dialogue, for those in the world–Christian or non–who have reached this conclusion. If a person is convinced of the futility of individual or collective effort, the Church teaches that Christ is ready to “free” us (read: render holy) and fulfill our desires for good.


About catholicsensibility

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