Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Gaudium et Spes 32
Section 32 concludes Chapter 2 of Gaudium et Spes, which was titled "The Community of (Hu)mankind." If there has been a bias toward the greater social needs in sections 23-32, it was because of the overall thrust of the chapter, not necessarily because of any kind of a reorientation to extroversion and public social work.
We have a theological and historical reality, namely that God saves people in communities:
As God did not create (people) for life in isolation, but for the formation of social unity, so also "it has pleased God to make (people) holy and save them not merely as individuals, without bond or link between them, but by making them into a single people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness."(cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter II, n. 9: AAS 57 (1965). pp. 12-13) So from the beginning of salvation history He has chosen (people) not just as individuals but as members of a certain community. Revealing His mind to them, God called these chosen ones "His people" (Ex. 3:7-12), and even made a covenant with them on Sinai.(cf. Exodus 24:1-8)
Consider the Scriptural witness; it contains interwoven stories about individuals called by God to intervene in human affairs and lasso a group of people into God's grace. Consider Abraham and his descendants, Joseph and famine relief, Moses and the freedom from slavery, Judith and her besieged city, and so on. Even the non-action figures wrote whole books on their meditations--Wisdom, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes were all penned by wise and spiritual authors who intended (it seems) to share their advice with a larger group of persons.
Jesus is naturally the example par excellence:
This communitarian character is developed and consummated in the work of Jesus Christ. For the very Word made flesh willed to share in the human fellowship. He was present at the wedding of Cana, visited the house of Zacchaeus, ate with publicans and sinners. He revealed the love of the Father and the sublime vocation of (humankind) in terms of the most common of social realities and by making use of the speech and the imagery of plain everyday life. Willingly obeying the laws of his country He sanctified those human ties, especially family ones, which are the source of social structures. He chose to lead the life proper to an artisan of His time and place.
More than his life's example, Jesus also preached community:
In His preaching He clearly taught the (children) of God to treat one another as (sisters and) brothers. In His prayers He pleaded that all His disciples might be "one." Indeed as the redeemer of all, He offered Himself for all even to point of death. "Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down (their) life for (their) friends" (John 15:13). He commanded His Apostles to preach to all peoples the Gospel's message that the human race was to become the Family of God, in which the fullness of the Law would be love.
I think of the witness of Christian saints in this light. Many saints led rather ordinary lives. But their example is promoted for imitation, itself a broadening of the individual calls each of them received from God. Jesus himself intended for a human community to be formed. It was to be a group of people more closely bonded than any other. Indeed, Christ's own body was upheld as an early prime example of the way in which this new community would function.
As the firstborn of many (sisters and brothers) and by the giving of His Spirit, He founded after His death and resurrection a new ... community composed of all those who receive Him in faith and in love. This He did through His Body. which is the Church. There everyone, as members one of the other would render mutual service according to the different gifts bestowed on each.
The role of the individual is to play her or his part. More than that, the Church is to consider itself always in need of reform, of greater perfection, of better effort, of striving for the ideal, which without God is unreachable.
This solidarity must be constantly increased until that day on which it will be brought to perfection. Then, saved by grace, (people) will offer flawless glory to God as a family beloved of God and of Christ their Brother.