Introduction to “Church in the Present World”

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This conversation on Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution responds to Jesus asking —

“To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”        

Luke 13:20–21

Like the woman in Jesus’ parable, the Mission of our Church is to knead humankind with the leaven of Gospel Good News and the Spirit-guided teaching of the Church. We disciples of Jesus are responsible for continuing Vatican II’s leavening.

GS was the last of V2’s documents. In a sense it was a summary of the direction the whole Council called for the Church to take. A few key principles were asserted in Part I of this Council’s sole Pastoral Constitution. For our conversation I share a few of those principles before we look at Part II which lists certain urgent issue we night consider most important today and so most important for AUSCP’s focus in the next 3 years.

Part I: Key Points

  • “The Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ Himself” (GS
  • Jesus declared his Mission to be “to bring good news to the poor, give sight to the blind, release the prisoners, free the oppressed, and declare the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:16-19
  • The primary concerns of the Church are those of the world, not those of the institution separate from the world.
  • “Action on behalf of justice is constitutive of the mission of the Church.” The 1971 Synod on Justice: (article 10)
  • “The Christian conception of the world is that we are to be a community and not a competing crowd.” Cardinal Bernardin, at the International Synod on Evangelization, 1974.
  • The Church, as the Body of the Christ, is to be an “effective sign” (a sacrament) of human fulfillment (salvation) by both pointing to and contributing to the permanent revolution referred to in Luke 4:16-19 – “the acceptable year of the Lord.”
  • “SHE (the Church) SERVES AS A LEAVEN. (GS 40). The primary role of the laity who live and work in the world is to be leaven in the political, economic, and social order. The role of the clergy, as leaders, includes the critical responsibility of preparing the laity for their role as leaven … “to structure and consolidate the human community according to the divine law” (GS 42, emphasis added).
  • “To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the task of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the gospel” (GS 4).
  • “God, who has parental concern for everyone, has willed that all people should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood” (GS 24).
  • This requires “Repenting, i.e. changing our mind-set) and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).
  • The principle underlying this structuring as family is THE COMMON GOOD, …
    1. The Dignity of Every Human Person
    2. The Community of Humankind as One Whole – human family
    3. Human Activities That Impact Our World Everywhere
    4. The Church, the People of God who Constitute the Church, are Responsible for Implementing God’s given Mission in Today’s World.

Part II: Key Question

Part II of GS offers us 6 key topics: Marriage and Family, Culture, Economics and Social Life, Political Community, Please and Community of Nations (Ukraine, Olympics)

In response to God’s call and our Mission in this seventh post-Vatican II decade, how can we best integrate the Gospel with Vatican II’s Vision and Values with the help of science, etc.? 

Which of these do you find most important for AUSCP to give priority over these 3 years?

  • How does the document help us address the development of culture in the world and hence care of God’s creation.
  • How does it call us to focus on the socio-economic life of all and hence distribution of wealth?
  • What about the importance of the life of the political community and Church’s encouragement of lay participation in politics fostering moral teaching of Church?
  • Finally, what about the other social teachings of the Church:
    • on peace and opposition to war?
    • on death penalty?
    • on racism?

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