Limbourg brothers 375px-Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_juin

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power….Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilisation and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.”

[1] These are the penetrating words of Pope St. John Paul II in his homily for the inauguration of his pontificate in 1978. Indeed, the human person is a great mystery, and it is only in the light of the mystery of Christ that we come to know our own dignity. The Second Vatican Council teaches us, “by his Incarnation, [Christ], the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.”[2] In other words, Jesus Christ is in solidarity with every human being for he worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. It is through this solidarity that we have solidarity with one another, and therefore have the responsibility to build a society in which the dignity of every member is upheld and encouraged to flourish. In imitation of Christ, the human person achieves his full purpose only when he freely gifts himself to another person. Such self-sacrifice, however, cannot be authentically human unless it is ultimately ordered to God who is the source and end of human existence.[3] It is in the realisation of this dimension of human love—the ability to transcend the natural world—that we find our dignity and ultimate fulfilment. And only through this transcendent love can we build a society in which human beings can flourish economically, politically, and culturally. When society respects the dignity of the human person—made in the image of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and called to share in God’s life eternally—individuals are empowered to work for their own personal good which is never contrary to, but always in step with the common good. The human person develops culturally when his religious freedom is not stymied by oppressive political regimes that seek to restrict his view to this-worldly perspectives. Rather, when the human person’s heart is allowed to soar to divine contemplation, he is able to flourish culturally. As the twentieth-century German philosopher Josef Pieper observed, what else is the height of culture but cultic worship of the one, true God?[4] When human beings are open to God and recognise their mutual solidarity, they are open to one another and the goods of this earth are cared for and shared among peoples according to each one’s needs. The human person’s capacity for transcendence, including his right to religious freedom, is fully realised only when he opens wide the doors to Christ. Therefore, as evangelisers, let us imitate the call of St. John Paul II to the world, “Be not afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!” Only a full response to this call will enable authentic human development to take place.

[1] John Paul II, Homily of His Holiness John Paul II for the Inauguration of His Pontificate, Vatican: the Holy See website (Rome: 1978), § 5.

[2] “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium et Spes, Promulgated by Pope Paul VI, December 7, 1965,” in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing, 1981), chapter I, § 22, p. 921.

[3] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus annus, Vatican: the Holy See website (Rome: 1991), chapter IV, § 41.

[4] Cf. Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009).


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Painting: Très riches heures du Duc de Berry: Juin (June) (1478-1549)