Viewed through the prism of the Petrine ministry, Christianity reveals that the history of the world and the history of salvation are one and the same. Many of us never knew or have forgotten this identity. Our lapse in this regard contributes to the enervating sense of purposelessness so prevalent today.
To recap the trajectory: God created the universe and us so that we might participate eternally in his ineffable goodness. But, endowed with free will we rejected his invitation and found ourselves in a world crippled by sin and death. Two millennia ago, fulfilling the promise he had delivered through his Chosen People God laid the foundation for the restoration of our relationship with him. This was attained by the redeeming sacrifice of his Son whose incarnation, passion and resurrection established his kingdom among us.
Already here, this universally available kingdom will not be fully realized until the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ. In the meantime, God wills that we cooperate in this endeavor by fostering everywhere human dignity and all it entails, a mission embraced essentially by the animating force of charity. This is our purpose and the purpose of history. Those who refuse to commit will suffer the consequence.
Perhaps it has always been so, but it seems today we are particularly prone to forget this. Unconcerned about anything other than basic survival and undirected by a larger cause we succumb to the numbing allure of aimless distraction. We let atrophy those creative talents our Creator has given us to build his kingdom.
Here technology is both friend and foe. While it liberates us from our tiresome drudgery and enables our extraordinary feats, it can also, if we allow it, paralyze us with the belief that its putative omnipotence is sufficient to solve the world’s problems. This surrender to technology coupled with our sense of purposelessness might well free us from care and relieve us of commitment. But neither of these ‘liberations’ is consistent with the advance of the kingdom.
Our society has a bad case of TJS, the ‘torn jeans syndrome.’ Granted: ‘chacun un a son gout,’ or, “each to his own,” but these intentionally frayed garments epitomize the insouciance of purposelessness. They are the uniform of the post-moderns, those less than joyful souls who have resigned themselves to the sad belief that there is no objective reality let alone a purposeful relationship with one. Truth, Beauty and Goodness no longer reign supreme if they ever did. Any power they may have had cannot be recharged. Aware of this post-modern mindset each time I see denim trousers stylishly ripped at the knee I imagine a sullen voice somewhere sighing: “too late, never again.”
Christianity on the other hand with its insistence on the salvific role of history champions hope, that indispensable virtue that engenders all others. Christianity is a faith bolstered by the conviction that God’s Holy Spirit is guiding the progress of the world. Furthermore, because his kingdom is preliminarily among us now, we humans are more inclined than our distant ancestors to accept his invitation to cooperate.
Christians tend to be happy and committed souls. Their motto might be: “already, not yet”. Beyond being post-modern, they are pre-Parousial.
Dana Robinson is chair of the board of trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.