Good evening Father Angelo,
First of all I want to thank you deeply for this splendid service that you give to the people who have questions and doubts regarding faith.
Going to the point, what are the relationships Christians must have with the world in general, but above all, with the States and the various Confederations that characterize it?
In this regard I have always felt and thought that the World was a negative place, possessed by the Devil (Luke 4,5-6), of which the children of God are not part of, even if they were sent in it to be a light, a hope for Humanity (all the discourse of Jesus on the salt of the earth etc.) However, in concrete terms, what are the relations that a Christian must have with the world? Is it right, for example, to vote and therefore not passively submit to the laws and actions of the states of the world, but in fact be involved in them? It is not this part of the world, instead of just being in the World? Or again, is it right to carry out jobs directly dependent on a State (state employee, soldier, etc.), or in God’s eyes, does it become part of the World?
I have often heard that doing things like the above is right as a good Christian should always take care of the community in which he lives. At the same time, I wonder if it is really right to be active participants in states that, in fact, do not give totally in the service of their neighbors, whoever they may be, as a Christian should do. In fact, as I have studied, States are contracts stipulated between individuals who mutually promise to help each other, effectively making the citizens of other states second class citizens in the eyes of the state itself.
I apologize for the length of this questions, but I really needed to convey the idea of the confusion that reigns in my head. I hope you can help me and feel free to contradict me if I am wrong somewhere.
I wish you every form of good.
The Priest’s Answer
1. There is a misunderstanding about the word”world” that deceives you. By world, we mean the set of men who live on the face of the earth. Now living with others trying to leave the world better than we found it is a very great act of love.
2. The whole social doctrine of the Church has as her objective of making the world more human and of making coexistence among men more peaceful and orderly. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:14).
He did not tell us to leave the world adrift but to illuminate it with the light of the Gospel which reveals to men the ultimate goal of their existence here below and at the same time the very high dignity of every human person who must be considered the center and the end of everything: school, economy, work, social institutions, etc.
3. The Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et spes, which is one of its most important documents states, “The Church travels the same journey as all of humanity and shares the same earthly fate with the world; and is to be the leaven, as it were, the soul of human society,in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God” (GS 40).
And again, “Christ did not bequeath to the church a mission in the political, economic, and social order; the purpose that he assigned to it was religious. But this religious mission can be the source of commitment, direction, and vigor to establish and consolidate the human community according to the law of God” (GS 42).
Previously, in the Mater et Magistra, John XXIII said, “Hence, though the Church’s first care must be for souls, how she can sanctify them and make them share the gifts of heaven, she concerns herself too with the exigencies of man’s daily life, with his livelihood and education, and his his general, temporal welfare and prosperity in its many aspects and according to the various eras” (MM 3).
4. The Church does all this by extending the mission of Jesus to the end of the world, which refers above all to the eternal salvation of man when he says, “I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the light of the world.” When seeing the hungry crowd of his followers, he was moved to exclaim “I have compassion for the multitude”(MM5), showing that he is also concerned about the earthly needs of people. Not only does the Divine Redeemer demonstrate this care only with words, but also with the examples of his life, when, to quell the hunger of the crowd, he miraculously multiplied the bread several times.
5. It is therefore a duty for Christians to commit themselves in the world on behalf of all and in a particular way of those most in need. Disengagement is a lack of civic duty and for a Christian it becomes a lack of charity for which he will have to give an account to God.
6. In Sacred Scripture and more properly in the New Testament, the word world now designates the universe, the earth, the human race, and in another time, the group of men who reject God and persecute Christ and his disciples with hatred. While the first three destinations are positive, the fourth is negative and indicates what is hostile to God and is subject to Satan. In a word, it could be said that it is the world of sin.
7. This is the meaning, for example, of the following words of the Lord, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil” (Jn 7: 7). And, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (Jn 15: 18-19). And again, “I gave them your word and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more that I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world anymore than I belong to the world” (Jn 17: 14-16).
8. It is above all in Saint John, in his Gospel and in his letters, that this negative meaning appears. In his first letter, St. John says, “Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but comes from the world” (1 Jn 2: 15-16). It is from this world, that is, from the world of sin, that we must stay away. Not from the cosmos and the community of men.
With the wish that you can always be in the world of God and of the heavenly reminders, I gladly pray for you to the Lord and I bless you.