Image: Childhood of Christ | Gerard van Honthorst
From the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council
The worldwide activity of man
By his labour and abilities man has always striven to improve the quality of his life. Today, particularly by means of science and technology, he has extended his mastery over almost the whole of nature, and still continues to extend it. Through the development of the many means of communication among nations, the human family is coming to see itself, and establish itself, as a single worldwide community. As a result, where formerly man looked especially to supernatural forces for blessings, he now secures many of these benefits for himself, thanks to his own efforts.
In the face of this vast enterprise now engaging the whole human race, men are asking themselves a series of questions. What is the meaning and value of all this activity? How should these benefits be used? Where are the efforts of individuals and communities finally leading us?
The Church is the guardian of the deposit of God’s word, from which are drawn the principles of the religious and moral order. Without always having a ready answer to every question, the Church desires to integrate the light of revelation with the skilled knowledge of mankind, so that it may shine on the path which humanity has lately entered.
Those who believe in God take it for granted that, taken by itself, man’s activity, both individual and collective – that great struggle in which men in the course of the ages have sought to improve the conditions of human living – is in keeping with God’s purpose.
Man, created in God’s image, has been commissioned to master the earth and all it contains, and so rule the world in justice and holiness. He is to acknowledge God as the creator of all, and to see himself and the whole universe in relation to God, in order that all things may be subject to man, and God’s name be an object of wonder and praise over all the earth.
This commission extends to even the most ordinary activities of everyday life. Where men and women, in the course of gaining a livelihood for themselves and their families, offer appropriate service to society, they can be confident that their personal efforts promote the work of the Creator, confer benefit on their fellowmen, and help to realise God’s plan in history.
So far from thinking that the achievements gained by man’s abilities and strength are in opposition to God’s power, or that man with his intelligence is in some sense a rival to his Creator, Christians are, on the contrary, convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God’s greatness and the effect of his wonderful providence.
The more the power of men increases, the wider is the scope of their responsibilities, as individuals and as communities.
It is clear, then, that the Christian message does not deflect men from the building up of the world, or encourage them to neglect the good of their fellowmen, but rather places on them a stricter obligation to work for these objectives.