GAUDIUM ET SPES, The Church in the Modern World

“No despair of ours can alter the reality of things nor stain the joy of the cosmic dance, which is always there.” -Thomas Merton

The document on the Church in the modern world presents an outwardly looking focus for us as Christians. It ended one hundred and fifty years of not looking at the world evolving and growing.  The reign of God, the new creation, an understanding of ‘Christ‘ among and with us, in the world, and for that matter the universe. The document expresses the need to understand that the Church, the insitutional church has a responsibility to all of humankind – The church in all its being and history surrenders itself in God’s name through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the manner of Jesus himself….the incarnate Christ. Vatican II’s document on ‘The Church in the Modern World’ is one of the most remarkable of all the documents produced by the Council.

The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner said: “The only really absolute mysteries in Christianity are the self-communication of God in the depths of existence, which we call grace, and in history which we call Christ.” This is remarkably what is the  Universal Christ in the Modern World.

The document of the council, wanted to draw attention to the role we all have as Christians, in suffering, and joy. The document was asking us to think about “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties” of people today. The council was in this document hoping for a response about those “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties” from each and everyone of us, and what do we do about them?

The council through the document was trying to wake up the people, the clergy, and the world we live. To see that the church is not the institution but to see the church as people who are the foundation of divine love and understand our responsibility as people both lay and clergyto bring about that consciousness. This document is all about ‘waking up‘ and not about establishing rules or order. The document was asking people to move forward by drawing on the inner Christ in them, the Spirit of God. The document expressed that the underlying reason for human dignity lies in our humanity which is a call to communion with God, and this is the universal Christ in us. The document wants us as Christians to understand that God loves us by becoming us, and everything we do, everything we see, touch in this world is Christ-centric.

The document focuses on giving ‘meaning’ to the incarnate Christ in us.
1. The Dignity of the Human Person
(Christ reveals what it means to be human)
2. The Community of Mankind
(God creates humans to be together. Human community reflects the Trinitarian community.)
3. Man’s Activity Throughout the World
(People are to be considered more valuable for what they are than at what they possess.)

The Council stresses through this document Chirst message directed to all men and women of good will, regardless of their religious affiliation or whether one believes in God: “Drawn from the treasures of the teaching of the Church the proposals of the Council are intended for all men, whether they believe in God or whether they do not explicitly acknowledge Him

I would like to suggest we take some time and go back and read this document. Much has been lost in the last fifty years, and there is a need to return to our Christian roots.

“There is one Body, one Spirit, and you were all called into one and the same hope—And each one of us has been given his own share of grace, as Christ allotted it.” Ephesians 4:4,7.

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