Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
May 29, 2006
Spirit renews face of the earth
Christianity is ultimately about the salvation of souls. We look to the resurrection as opening wide the gates to eternal life. But a redeemed people should also mean a redeemed society. Christianity should also mean a transformed culture, a world that is more fully human.
Alas, the spread of Christianity and progress in humanization do not move forward in lockstep. It is not as though we can say that, century by century, society can be observed as getting better in every way.
Christianity has certainly made its contributions. It brought about organized care for the poor, the sick and the weak. It was the driving force behind the abolition of slavery. It is difficult to imagine the development of modern democracy or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without the Church's insistence on the inviolable dignity of every human person.
But as often as things move forward, they slip backwards. Faith in the Prince of Peace has not inoculated the Western world against war. The Rwandan genocide is a grim reminder of the atrocities that can occur in nominally Christian countries. Two thousand years of Christianity has not prevented the truncated and distorted love represented by the institutionalized acceptance of abortion and same-sex marriage. The clergy sexual abuse crisis has shown that even those dedicated to serving in God's name can cruelly exploit the vulnerable.
"A quantifiable progress in man's goodness is impossible because every man is new and because in a certain respect history begins anew with every man," said the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Salt of the Earth, p. 218). "God has entered into history in a much more fragile way, so to speak, than we would like."
God's fragility is human freedom. How we would like for God to take away all the pain and make everyone experience continuous joy. Instead, he has given us that responsibility. Sometimes we do well; other times we fail miserably.
This is the lesson of Ascension-Pentecost. Forty days after the resurrection, the apostles were still waiting for Jesus to bring about his kingdom on earth. "They asked him, 'Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?'" (Acts 1:6). But instead of fulfilling their wish, Jesus was taken up in a cloud out of their sight.
He promised not to restore the kingdom but to send the Holy Spirit who would give them the power to transform society. Earlier, Jesus had told the apostles that the Holy Spirit could not come until he was taken away. Jesus' ascension was not to be a loss to the world, but to usher in the new age of the Spirit.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are called to create a world of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
In this fragile era of empowerment we live. Two steps forward, one step back. Or, is it one step forward and two steps back? It may seem that Christ's body is being torn apart - both from outside persecution and internal ruptures.
Humanity may yet succeed in destroying the earth. When faith is overtaken by no-faith, powers of evil break loose. The Church itself suffers horrible body blows. But no matter what, the power of love will remain alive, always giving hope for both eternal life and a renewed culture on this earth.
The message of Pentecost is the power that the Holy Spirit will give when even a small number of people pray together intensely. Prayer is never in vain. It always helps to heal the wounded body. It also sends us forth to renew the face of the earth.
- Glen Argan
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.