Christians Must Work to Build Up World, John Paul II Says |
Wednesday General Papal Audience in Paul VI Hall from January 31st
1. The Second Letter of Peter, taking recourse to the symbols characteristic of the Apocalyptic language in use in Jewish literature, presents the new creation almost like a flower that blooms from the ashes of the history of the world (see 3:11-13). It is an image that seals the book of the Apocalypse, when John proclaims: "Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more" (Revelation/Apocalypse 21:1). In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul describes creation groaning under the weight of evil, but destined to be "set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).
Thus Sacred Scripture inserts a virtual golden thread in the midst of the weaknesses, miseries, violence and injustice of human history, leading toward a messianic end of liberation and peace. From this solid biblical base, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "the visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, 'so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,' sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ" (CCC, 1047; see St. Irenaeus, "Adversus haereses," 5,32,1). Then finally, in a pacified world, "the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
2. This new creation, human and cosmic, is inaugurated with the resurrection of Christ, first fruits of that transfiguration to which we are all destined. Paul affirms this in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Christ the first fruits; then, at His coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to His God and Father (...). The last enemy to be destroyed is death ... so that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:23-24,26,28).
Of course, it is a perspective of faith that at times one could be tempted to doubt, as man lives in history under the weight of evil, contradictions and death. The previously quoted Second Letter of Peter takes this into consideration, reflecting the objections of those who are suspicious, skeptical or even "mocking scorners" who ask: "Where is the promise of his coming? From the time when our ancestors fell asleep, everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:3-4).
3. This is the discouraged attitude of those who refuse to make any commitment in the confrontations of history and its transformation. They are convinced that nothing can change, that every effort is destined to be in vain, that God is absent and not at all interested in this minute point of the universe that is the earth. Already in the Greek world some thinkers taught this view and the Second Letter of Peter perhaps reacts also to this fatalistic vision and the obvious practical implications. If, in fact, nothing can change, what is the point of hoping? All that remains is to place oneself at the margin of life, letting the repetitive movement of human events fulfill its perennial cycle. Following this line, many men and women have lost heart on the margins of history, lacking in trust, indifferent to everything, incapable of struggling and hoping. Instead, the Christian view is illustrated in a limpid way by Jesus when, "Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He said in reply, 'The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you'" (Luke 17:20-21).
4. To the temptation of those who imagine apocalyptic scenes of the Kingdom of God breaking out, and those who close their eyes, heavy with the sleep of indifference, Christ offers the coming, without clamor, of new Heavens and the new earth. Such a coming is similar to the hidden but dynamic germinating of the seed in the earth (see Mark 4:26-29).
God, therefore, has come into human affairs and the world and proceeds silently, waiting patiently for humanity with its delays and conditionings. He respects its liberty, sustains it when it is gripped by despair, leads it from stage to stage and invites it to collaborate in the plan of truth, justice and peace of the Kingdom. Divine action and human effort should, therefore, be intertwined. "Men are not deterred by the Christian message from building up the world, or impelled to neglect the welfare of their fellows, but that they are rather more stringently bound to do these very things" ("Gaudium et Spes," 34).
5. Thus, a topic of great importance opens up before us, which has always interested the reflection and work of the Church. Without falling into the opposite extremes of sacred isolationism or secularism, the Christian must express his hope even within the structures of secular life. If the Kingdom is divine and eternal, it is, however, sowed in time and space: it is "among us" as Jesus says.
Vatican Council II strongly underlined this intimate and profound relation: "The mission of the Church, consequently, is not only to bring men the message and grace of Christ but also to permeate and improve the whole range of the temporal" ("Apostolicam actuositatem," 5). The spiritual and temporal orders, "are distinct; they are nevertheless so closely linked that God's plan is, in Christ, to take the whole world up again and make of it a new creation, in an initial way here on earth, in full realization at the end of time" (ibid.).
Inspired by this certainty, the Christian walks with courage on the roads of the world seeking to follow God's steps and collaborating with him in the birth of a horizon in which "mercy and truth will meet, justice and peace will embrace" (Psalm 85:11).
[Translation by ZENIT]
For past Papal Pronouncements, see THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS Archives
February 4, 2001
volume 12, no. 35
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS