Towards A Spirituality Of Authentic Human Development

Towards A Spirituality Of Authentic Human Development

by Fr. Desmond De’Sousa CSsR

What we have today is a spiritual vision of authentic human development, to inspire us as a way of life. The spiritual vision of authentic human development today stresses two very important dimensions:

The vertical dimension (“the whole person”) stresses human person’s gradual opening to higher values and perspectives: from the purely economic to the social, political and spiritual; from the material to the spiritual, culminating in a burst of liberation of Christian freedom. “for we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth with birth pangs.. even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly awaiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Rom.8:22-23)

The horizontal dimension (“all persons”) stresses the need for one to be open to others, to a more social and communitarian concept of human existence: from one’s own needs to those of the family, the neighborhood, one’s own country, other countries and cultures, and other social groups or classes of the world. “For it pleased the Genuine Human Development in Catholic Social Teachings Father.. by Christ to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His Cross.” (Col.1:19-20)

These two dimensions closely interrelate. There is no true development along the vertical line without an equivalent development along the horizontal line. For christians, “to have more” and even “to be more” – as stressed by French Dominican Fr. Lebret who significantly influenced the encyclical Progress of the Peoples – is not an end in itself. It acquires its full meaning only when it is open to others and enables those who are less, to become more.

On the other hand there is no true opening to others, in a spirit of respect, love and solidarity, without getting closer to higher spiritual values and to God. Christ is always the ideal in the work for authentic human development. On the Cross, the human was reconciled with the Divine, with other human persons and with oneself. In Christ on the Cross, the horizontal and vertical dimensions of existence, the human and the Divine perfectly meet. Authentic human development is an on-going process. To be constantly purified and perfected by the power of Christ’s Cross, can only be achieved through suffering and sacrifice.

This message is surely needed today when the aim of development seems to be the maximization of production, income and material comfort, and when indiscriminate use of the world’s resources threatens our very life and freedom. The Christian concept of sacrifice, simplicity and moderation, is not only a purely religious value detached from the realities of human development, but are also an essential condition to achieve a more human and just world.

We need a spiritual vision of authentic human development that nurtures a dynamic, charismatic vision of the future for the Church. We need an inductive, “bottom-up” process of authentic human development as the Catholic Church’s unique contribution to the process of social transformation of human society into the Reign of God.

It was the charismatic vision of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr that erupted in the “Obama moment” of Jan. 2009. His words ring true for us today in 2011: “One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions…Nothing could be more tragic than for me to live in these revolutionary times and fail to achieve the new mental outlooks the situation demands … In the unfolding conundrum [riddle] of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”

Is our spiritual vision adequate to see the future of the Church like Pope John XXIII, “like daybreak, a forerunner of most splendid light?” Or are we identified with the, “protectors of the status quo … [who] fail to achieve the new mental outlooks the situation demands and are therefore TOO LATE?”