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Chapter 34: Christian Life Animated with Hope of Everlasting Life

Question G: What attitude should Christians have toward the realization of human goods in this life?

1. Since all human goods share in divine goodness and express it, charity requires that all be loved (25‑B). Christian life should therefore develop out of love of human goods, insofar as they fulfill human beings in communion. It follows that the lives of a good Christian and a decent nonbeliever will appear similar in many ways. But they will differ. The good Christian loves all the goods inclusively and openheartedly, sharing them indiscriminately and never treating any as mere means; this is to say that the fifth and eighth modes of Christian response, mercy and self-oblation, will characterize Christian life. The nonbeliever may possess similar qualities, but at best they will be expressions of the corresponding modes of responsibility. Moreover, the nonbeliever will set limits on their exercise, whereas in principle the Christian can set none.

2. Good Christians will also be as energetic as the most ambitious nonbelievers, but Christian life will not be absorbed in any limited goal. Both tasks and successes will be received with humility (the first mode) as gifts of God. Moreover, in dedication to their personal vocations, good Christians will accept limited roles willingly, will not grasp at other sorts of human fulfillment, and will resign themselves to limitations and frustrations (the second mode).

3. They will also be aware of the hidden meaning of this life, considering the real and lasting significance of their efforts to be not so much in their observable outcomes as in their contributions to the reordering of goods in the fullness of our Lord Jesus. They will attach the highest importance not to success but to faithfulness until death—a faithfulness accompanied by detachment from everything which does not belong to one’s vocation (the third and fourth modes).

4. Good Christians will take evil seriously insofar as it is a real privation which limits human fulfillment. But they will not despairingly regard evil as a positive force which requires either compromise (excluded by the sixth mode) or human retribution (excluded by the seventh mode). Since God’s creative work—and only that—ultimately will eliminate evil or overcome it completely, the good Christian will regard evil as Jesus does, with utter repugnance but no misdirected hostility, with hatred for sin and all its effects but compassion toward those who are in sin insofar as they still can be saved.

5. Good Christians will see their lives as a process of perfecting themselves in God’s love, building up the fullness of Jesus, and meriting God’s re-creative act. Far from being devoid of human meaning, their lives in this world will be supported with fresh incentives (see GS 21, 34, 39, and 43). Aware that earthly progress is not to be confused with the growth of God’s kingdom, they will avoid conforming to the contemporary world, hoping instead for the coming of Jesus and the fulfillment by divine re-creation of all things in him (see LG 42; GS 37, 39, and 45).

St. Paul writes movingly of his eagerness to reach his everlasting dwelling. He considers it a reality which is present but invisible, permanent rather than temporary. Fleshly life is waning, but the inner life, a self built up by deeds of love, is waxing. What is most important is that this mortal life be transformed by being drawn into immortal life (see 2 Cor 4.16–5.5). This view usually is considered other-worldliness, and in one sense it is. But the otherness of the other world must be understood accurately. It is the hidden reality of this world. Paul nowhere suggests that human fulfillment achieved now through a totally dedicated life in Jesus belongs to the present world, which is passing away.