The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World is one of the four “constitutions” resulting from the Roman Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965). It is commonly known by its Latin name Gaudium et spes – “Joy and Hope.”

The document was officially promulgated on December 7, 1965. It gives an overview of the church’s teachings about humanity’s relationship to society: to economics, poverty, social justice, culture, science, technology, and ecumenism.

For fifty years, this document, drafted by some of my long-gone professors, has inspired and motivated me as a believer, a theologian, and a teacher. It still challenges me and gives me hope for today and for tomorrow.

I find it still has a very contemporary ring, echoed in its opening lines. A good reflection for all Christians on this third weekend of Advent 2015. A brief and appropriate Christian response to today’s anxieties:

The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men and women. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for all people. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with humankind and its history by the deepest of bonds….

To carry out such a task, the church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, it can respond to the perennial questions which people ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other. We must therefore recognize and understand the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics.

A brief citation. A contemporary challenge. A clear statement of Christian mission…..


5 thoughts on “Joy and Hope : Reading the Signs of the Times

  1. Thanks, Jack. I have been corresponding with some folks in utter despair about the terrorist attacks and that Donald Trump can find supporters. (I think the onset of winter feeds depression.) My hope and prayer is that the people will not despair but find “Joy and Hope” in this season, far better motivators of constructive words and action. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Reading the gospels and the signs of the times in each other’s light is important, but seems to be a threat to many folks. Either Jesus is real or he isn’t, either we are created in the image and likeness of God or we aren’t, and there are consequences to this. I choose to believe that he is and we are, and I am still trying to figure out the consequences and do whatever it is I am called to do. Not sure if I really understand all this. But, to paraphrase army talk, I dont have to understad it, I just have to do it.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

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