National Catholic Register

Vatican

Cooperate With God

BY Jim Cosgrove

Feb. 11-17, 2001 Issue | Posted 2/11/01 at 1:00 PM

 

Register Summary

“Divine action and human effort should be intertwined,” in building up the world, Pope John Paul II said Jan.31 during his weekly general audience.

Some “forgo any effort to face our human lot and transform it,” the Holy Father told an estimated 4,000 people gathered in the Paul VI Audience Hall. “They are convinced that nothing can change.”

The Pope said that, on the contrary, it is right to maintain hope for the future because “God has come into human affairs.” This also means that Christians are “stringently bound” to the duty of building up the world. God wants them to actively work with him to bring about “the plan of truth, justice and peace of the Kingdom.”

The Second Letter of Peter, employing the symbols characteristic of apocalyptic language in use in Jewish literature, presents the new creation almost as a flower blooming from the ashes of history and of the world (see 3:11-13). It is an image that seals the book of Revelation, 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 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 will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

A Christian walks with courage on the roads of the world seeking to follow God's steps.

This new creation, human and cosmic, is inaugurated with Christ's resurrection, the first fruits of the 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).

Temptation to Doubt

Granted, it is an outlook of faith that at times one could be tempted to doubt, as man lives in history under the weight of evil, conflict 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).

This is the discouraged attitude of those who forgo any effort to face our human lot and transform it. 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 dot of the universe that is the earth. In the Greek world some thinkers had already taught this outlook, and the Second Letter announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, 'There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20-21).

Hidden Coming of the Kingdom

To the temptation of those who imagine apocalyptic scenes of the Kingdom of God breaking out, and of those who close their eyes, heavy with the sleep of indifference, Christ counters with the unsensational coming of the 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 they are rather more stringently bound to do these very things” (Gaudium et Spes, 34).

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 religious isolationism and secularism, a Christian must express his hope even within the structures of secular life. Though the Kingdom is divine and eternal, it is also sowed in time and space — it is “among us,” as Jesus says.

Transform the World

Vatican Council II strongly underlined this intimate and profound link: “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, a Christian walks with courage on the roads of the world seeking to follow God's steps and collaborating with him to bring about the birth of a future in which “mercy and truth will meet, justice and peace will embrace” (Psalm 85:11).

(Translation by Zenit and Register)

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