Sermons

Summary: The Council envisioned a humanity integrated, not split apart, and entirely in the image of Christ

Monday of First Week in Advent 2012

Gaudium et Spes

When Roman general Titus stood on Mount Scopus in March of the year 70 AD, and looked toward the rebel city of Jerusalem, he learned by experience what many before him had known. Like Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus and Herod, he saw that what we call Mount Zion was a geographical joke. Every hill around the city could look down on it and see everything going on inside the walls. The rebel Jews could only move at night without being observed. As Jesus said in another context, “everything that has been concealed will be revealed.” Jerusalem was doomed, and in just six months it became, as Jesus had predicted, a pile of rubble.

But Jerusalem had lost its way generations earlier. In the beginning, with Abraham and later David, the vision of the Hebrews was supposed to be the divine vision. They would worship the One God rightly, and by the beauty and goodness and truth of their religion draw all other nations to the mountain of God, so that they would all live in a kingdom of justice and peace. But the early Israelites betrayed the covenant they had made with God. They went whoring after the gods of the land, rightly seen later as demons, and went so far as to offer up their sons and daughters to those demons in sacrifice. The Lord would not tolerate half-hearted devotion, so he allowed them to be conquered again and again by those foreign nations.

Then, after the Babylonian conquest and the Greek era, the Jews became closed-minded. They forgot their calling to bring all the nations together in right worship. They even converted the Court of the Gentiles, the outer ring of the Temple, to an outdoor mall for bird vendors. This is the reason Jesus purified the Temple. Ultimately it gives more meaning to this story from Matthew of the pagan centurion who had more faith than anyone He found in Israel.

The plan of God is for the Catholic Church to be the successor of Israel, to attract all nations to right worship in Spirit and Truth. Gaudium et Spes, the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, takes a positive outlook on this mission, and it does so with a Christian humanist perspective:

According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown.

But what is man? About himself he has expressed, and continues to express, many divergent and even contradictory opinions. In these he often exalts himself as the absolute measure of all things or debases himself to the point of despair. The result is doubt and anxiety. The Church certainly understands these problems. Endowed with light from God, she can offer solutions to them, so that man's true situation can be portrayed and his defects explained, while at the same time his dignity and destiny are justly acknowledged.

For Sacred Scripture teaches that man was created "to the image of God," is capable of knowing and loving his Creator, and was appointed by Him as master of all earthly creatures(1) that he might subdue them and use them to God's glory.(2) "What is man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet" (Ps. 8:5-7).

But God did not create man as a solitary, for from the beginning "male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Their companionship produces the primary form of interpersonal communion. For by his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential.

Therefore, as we read elsewhere in Holy Scripture God saw "all that he had made, and it was very good" (Gen. 1:31).

13. Although he was made by God in a state of holiness, from the very onset of his history man abused his liberty, at the urging of the Evil One. Man set himself against God and sought to attain his goal apart from God. Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, but their senseless minds were darkened and they served the creature rather than the Creator.(3) What divine revelation makes known to us agrees with experience. Examining his heart, man finds that he has inclinations toward evil too, and is engulfed by manifold ills which cannot come from his good Creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his beginning, man has disrupted also his proper relationship to his own ultimate goal as well as his whole relationship toward himself and others and all created things.

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