Defining Progress

Christianity does not have a notion that history always progresses, that, things are always getting better for mankind. When we read the Book of Revelation we see that humanity actually moves in circles. Over and over there are horrors that then dissipate, only to be followed by new ones. Nor is there any prophecy of an inner-historical, man-made state of salvation. The idea that human affairs necessarily get better and better has no support in the Christian outlook. What does on the other hand, belong to the Christian faith is the certainty that God never abandons man and that man therefore can never become a pure failure, even though today many believe it would be better if man had never appeared on the scene. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger – Salt of the Earth)

At some point in my life I began to see the world from a less self-centered perspective and began to thing and act in ways that would hopefully bring about material progress and better living conditions for others in our temporal state. Later I began to realize this goal must be pursued not only in the realm of natural sciences and technology but in the moral sense of changing our behaviors to reflect a spiritual view that causes individuals to rise above natural inclinations. For Christians, the template of this behavior is the person of Jesus Christ.

We profess a Faith of love, and compassion; mercy and justice, which calls for true solidarity among Earth's inhabitants. Very importantly, this solidarity arises when we conform ourselves to Christ and it dissolves when we look to uniting without Him. In this sense, true human progress is attained as mankind unites spiritually and in a manner that is faithful to its real destiny, union with God.

We grow our relationship with God, in the very soil of humility and personal sacrifice, all the while faithfully trusting in an invisible seed of divine life in each individual, whether seen or unseen. And we can do this even in the midst of uneven human behavior which seems to cycle between inspiration towards God and monstrous depravity. In other words, each soul can (and should) faithfully move towards God even if the world seems heading towards calamity.

I've tried to avoid being easily fooled by humanistic movements of misguided hope where mankind is 'saved' by technology, education, schemes of social welfare, or some new political philosophy. This can be difficult at times, because we are truly inspired to show our Faith's reality in concrete love and compassion: to help alleviate suffering and misery in the name of our Lord of love. Real Christian love arises in sacrifice and self-giving and is the only way in which the world becomes a better place.

Our true progress will be mirrored in human affairs as we grow in unity, but only if that unity is attached to the Body of Christ. This is the hallmark of understanding these cycles of descent to new horrors and tragedies. Our Lord's own temptation in the desert is a warning of how we can be drawn away from our real spiritual goals by crumbs of bread. In today's terms we are tempted to avoid suffering by terminating human life and labeling it compassion.

In a mystery of the spiritual life, individuals, groups, and societies are forced to roam about the desert in blindness groping for direction. Spiritual literature describes this as a time of purification and renewal. History and Sacred Scripture show us that the family of man has wandered often in the desert, but never alone.

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