In view of the Jubilee of 2025: the call of Gaudium et spes to Christian witness in society


(from  the Blog of the Alphonsian Academy )

As “the goal of the first twenty-five years of the 21st century” is now approaching, with the letter of 11 February 2022  addressed to the President of the  Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, Pope Francis invited the whole Church to prepare for the celebration of the Jubilee of 2025. 

The Jubilee Year of the Church has always been a special occasion of grace to experience the mercy of God, especially today, in a situation of strong international tension and after the dramatic time of the pandemic. Pope Francis’ intent is to “keep the torch of hope lit […] and do everything so that everyone regains the strength and certainty to look to the future with an open mind, a confident heart and a far-sighted mind,”, especially through the ability for humanity “to recover the sense of universal brotherhood” and to take charge of the “tragedy of rampant poverty that prevents millions of men, women, young people and children from living in a manner worthy of human beings.”

In this sense, the Pope reminds us of the fact that the spiritual dimension of the Jubilee in particular, which he hopes will be “prepared and celebrated with intense faith, living hope and active charity,” and of Christian life in general, must necessarily be combined with these “aspects fundamentals of social life, to constitute a coherent unity.” In this regard, the Church is invited to return to the four Constitutions of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which, together with the magisterium of the following decades, continue to be fundamental references for “orienting and guiding the holy people of God, so that they progress in the mission of bringing to all the joyful announcement of the Gospel.”

In particular, the Pastoral Constitution  Gaudium et spes  (GS) specifies that the presence and mission of the Church consists in “manifesting the mystery of God, which is the ultimate goal of man” and at the same time revealing “to man the meaning of his own existence, that is, the profound truth about man” (GS, n. 41). 

Questioning the fundamental questions of existence: “What is man? What is the meaning of pain, evil, and death, which continue to exist despite all progress? What are those conquests paid for at such a high price worth? What does man bring to society, and what can he expect from it? What will be after this life?” (GS, n. 10),  Gaudium et spes presents itself as a Pastoral document which sees the Church accompanying men and women in their daily “joys and hopes, sadness and anxieties”(GS, n. 1), despite the awareness that, “faced with the immense variety of situations and forms of civilization […] of realities subject to continuous evolution, the teaching presented here must be continued and expanded» (GS, n. 91).

With  Gaudium et spes, the Council opposes all attempts, direct or indirect, to limit the Church’s field of action and interest to merely internal matters, claiming its social dimension and not allowing itself to be relegated to a purely intimate and personal. All this not in one’s own interest, but in the interest of men. In fact: “It is man, therefore, man considered in his unity and in his totality, body and soul, man, heart and conscience, thought and will, who will be the cornerstone of all our exposition” (GS, n . 3). 

In this regard, Cardinal Pavan, one of the fathers of the Council Constitution, wrote: “The bell of history rings in a flock across all the regions of the earth; and calls and invites the Church, or, better, calls and invites all its members – clerics and lay people – to be themselves; that is, to be consistent in the life they lead with the Faith they profess; to always be so, everywhere, whatever the content of their work, therefore also in working with a temporal content: the latter field in which lay people are called to play their own and preponderant role, due to their state of life; they are called to carry out that role – as a rule – on their own initiative and on their own responsibility.”

This is echoed by Gaudium et spes when, at the end of the document, it states: “For not all who say: “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of the Father and act courageously” (GS, n. 93).

Leonardo Salutati