With great privileges and developments come struggles and discord. Some of it is below the surface. Perhaps there is a human instinct or an inner grace that nudges us to the good. But we don’t always make it there.
But side by side with all this, or rather as part of it, there are also the difficulties that appear whenever there is growth. There is unease and a sense of powerlessness regarding the profound response that (people) know that (they) must give. The picture of the world today also contains shadows and imbalances that are not always merely superficial. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council is certainly not the only document that deals with the life of this generation, but it is a document of particular importance. “The dichotomy affecting the modern world,” we read in it, “is, in fact, a symptom of a deeper dichotomy that is in (humankind ourselves). (We are) the meeting point of many conflicting forces. In (the) condition as a created being (one) is subject to a thousand shortcomings, but feels untrammelled in (one’s)inclinations and destined for a higher form of life. Torn by a welter of anxieties (one) is compelled to choose between them and repudiate some among them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as (one) is, (one) often does the very thing (one) hates and does not do what (one) wants. And so (one) feels him (or her)self divided, and the result is a host of discords in social life.”(Gaudium et Spes 10)
This summary remains apt today. Returning to the example of the internet, we indeed have the ability to make connections across borders, oceans, and languages. And yet so much of our online traffic is clogged with self-absorption. I think of the range of behaviors from pornography to the circling of like-minded wagons into special little preserves. And certainly our Western culture has never been so fractious. One might think human beings are incapable of embracing the good we’ve been privileged to receive.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana