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Transcendence

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The Gospel for this Sunday reminds us yet again that human life is transcendent, and the accumulation of temporal goods is neither the goal of our existence neither the path to unfading glory.

We all aspire to self-transcendence. As the story of Lazarus and the rich man illustrates, temporal goods are unable to free us from the power of death.

St. John Paul II, stated: “Peoples and individuals aspire to be free: their search for full development signals their desire to overcome the many obstacles preventing them from enjoying a “more human life”…

It is fitting to add that the aspiration to freedom from all forms of slavery affecting the individual and society is something noble and legitimate. This in fact is the purpose of development, or rather liberation and development, taking into account the intimate connection between the two.

Development which is merely economic is incapable of setting man free, on the contrary, it will end by enslaving him further. Development that does not include the cultural, transcendent and religious dimensions of man and society, to the extent that it does not recognize the existence of such dimensions and does not endeavor to direct its goals and priorities toward the same, is even less conducive to authentic liberation. Human beings are totally free only when they are completely themselves, in the fullness of their rights and duties. The same can be said about society as a whole.

The principal obstacle to be overcome on the way to authentic liberation is sin and the structures produced by sin as it multiplies and spreads.

The freedom with which Christ has set us free encourages us to become the servants of all. Thus, the process of development and liberation takes concrete shape in the exercise of solidarity, that is to say in the love and service of neighbor, especially of the poorest: “For where truth and love are missing, the process of liberation results in the death of a freedom which will have lost all support”…

The Church has confidence also in man, though she knows the evil of which he is capable. For she well knows that – in spite of the heritage of sin, and the sin which each one is capable of committing –  there exist in the human person sufficient qualities and energies, a fundamental “goodness”, because he is the image of the Creator, placed under the redemptive influence of Christ, who “united himself in some fashion with every man,”86 and because the efficacious action of the Holy Spirit “fills the earth.”

There is no justification then for despair or pessimism or inertia. Though it be with sorrow, it must be said that just as one may sin through selfishness and the desire for excessive profit and power, one may also be found wanting with regard to the urgent needs of multitudes of human beings submerged in conditions of underdevelopment, through fear, indecision and, basically, through cowardice. We are all called, indeed obliged, to face the tremendous challenge of the last decade of the second Millennium, also because the present dangers threaten everyone: a world economic crisis, a war without frontiers, without winners or losers. In the face of such a threat, the distinction between rich individuals and countries and poor individuals and countries will have little value, except that a greater responsibility rests on those who have more and can do more.

This is not however the sole motive or even the most important one. At stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt. As many people are already more or less clearly aware, the present situation does not seem to correspond to this dignity. Every individual is called upon to play his or her part in this peaceful campaign, a campaign to be conducted by peaceful means, in order to secure development in peace, in order to safeguard nature itself and the world about us. The Church too feels profoundly involved in this enterprise, and she hopes for its ultimate success…

In this commitment, the sons and daughters of the Church must serve as examples and guides, for they are called upon, in conformity with the program announced by Jesus himself in the synagogue at Nazareth, to “preach good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the accept able year of the Lord.” It is appropriate to emphasize the preeminent role that belongs to the laity, both men and women, as was reaffirmed in the recent Assembly of the Synod. It is their task to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice…

The Church well knows that no temporal achievement is to be identified with the Kingdom of God, but that all such achievements simply reflect and in a sense anticipate the glory of the Kingdom, the Kingdom which we await at the end of history, when the Lord will come again. But that expectation can never be an excuse for lack of concern for people in their concrete personal situations and in their social, national and international life, since the former is conditioned by the latter, especially today.

However imperfect and temporary are all the things that can and ought to be done through the combined efforts of everyone and through divine grace, at a given moment of history, in order to make people’s lives “more human,” nothing will be lost or will have been in vain. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, in an enlightening passage of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes: “When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise – human dignity, fraternal communion, and freedom – according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illumined and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom…here on earth that kingdom is already present in mystery.””

Fr. Roberto M. Cid