March 28, 2006

Gaudium et Spes 39

The heavily footnoted 39th section of Gaudium et Spes concludes this current chapter, by looking to the end times and expressing that universal longing for peace and life, and freedom from sin and death.

We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity,(cf. Acts 1:7) nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away;(cf. 1 Cor. 7:31; St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, V, 36, PG, VIII, 1221) but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide,(cf. 2 Cor. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:13) and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.(cf. 1 Cor. 2:9; Apoc. 21:4-5) Then, with death overcome, the (children) of God will be raised up in Christ, and what was sown in weakness and corruption will be invested with incorruptibility.(cf. 1 Cor. 15:42 and 53) Enduring with charity and its fruits,(cf. 1 Cor. 13:8; 3:14) all that creation(cf. Rom. 8:19-21) which God made on (humankind's) account will be unchained from the bondage of vanity.

Heaven is a stimulation, the Council teaches, for the transformation of the modern world in whatever way believers can effect it. The "foreshadowing" mentioned below inplies that activity to restore the world into a graced balanced, however flawed that might be in intention or result, is a participation of sorts in the coming Reign of God, as realized in its truest final form:

Therefore, while we are warned that it profits a (person) nothing (to) gain the whole world and lose (him- or her)self,(cf. Luke 9:25) the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age.

It's a concern to God, that much is clear:

Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.(Cf. Pius XI, encyclical letter Quadragesimo Anno: AAS 23 (1931), p. 207)

What we receive at the end of our lives, at the end of time, will be familiar to those who work for these ideals:

For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, (communion) and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: "a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace."(Preface of the Feast of Christ the King) On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower.