A Common Destiny

The "detachment" from the cultural crisis of late modernity that has been proposed as a proper Christian response to our current situation (cf. Traces, n. 2, 1999, p.2) appeals to the Christian conviction that the destiny of humankind cannot be reached in this world.
The political, economic, social, and cultural structures through which men and women express their search for that destiny are thus judged to be ultimately irrelevant, if not in fact inherently dangerous, because they always demand an allegiance that no Christian can pledge to a purely worldly reality. St. Augustine wrote, "Absent justice, what are kingdoms but great robberies?" (Cf. City of God, IV. 4) But is this justice really possible in this world? Not according to Christian doctrine, or so it seems. Christian doctrine asserts that the kingdom of God (in all its splendor of real justice, beauty, truth, etc.) is a gift from God-not a product of our efforts-to be bestowed on the Last Day.
This position seems to encourage detachment from the struggle to design those structures of social living that correspond to the human thirst for justice, among other "demands of the heart." One could argue that although such socially structured justice is impossible, the Christian is obliged to struggle for it as a "moral imperative," in obedience to God's will. But for how long can one struggle for a cause that one believes will not be the outcome of the struggle?, It seems to me that seeking justice as a moral imperative is not enough impetus to sustain the effort. Sooner or later one is likely to give up the quest and learn to live with even the most glaring social injustice, or perhaps conclude that the Christian faith is really an impediment to full human liberation.
Liberation theology was an attempt to escape this dilemma. It refused to accept the radical dichotomy between worldly and eternal justice. It did not accept the idea that moral obligation was enough motive for action. However, many liberation theologians were unable to respond convincingly to the charge that they were secularizing and politicizing the kingdom of God. I believe that their problem was with their judgment of the experience of injustice. This experience was judged according to secular sociological categories (such as class and the theory of dependence) that were totally inadequate, that in fact distorted reality. Instead, all authentically theological categories of interpretation emerge out of the experience of the encounter with Christ, prior even to the experience of social injustice. Both may indeed occur at the same time, but it is not Christ who is encountered through the victims of injustice; it is the victims of injustice who are encountered by Christ. It is the encounter with Christ that generates, so to speak, the categories of interpretation that allow us to grasp the reality of the human thirst for justice, freedom, solidarity, and peace, as well as the obstacles to it embodied in political, social, and economic structures that reflect an inadequate understanding of human personhood.
When that encounter happens, to use the terminology of Msgr. Giussani, Mystery and sign coincide. The Christian witness (in the struggle for justice, for example) becomes a true sign of the Mystery of God's justice, and as such a vehicle of its Incarnation in this world, moving it from within to its eternal destiny. This "eternal destiny" is thus not removed from the present struggle for justice; it is present within it and anticipated even now through the presence of the Risen Christ, the perfect identity between Mystery and sign.
That is why Communion and Liberation was present at the United Nations to confirm the validity of the quest for global justice, freedom, and peace based on the experience of the encounter with the Risen Christ given to Msgr. Giussani to share with us. The witness we wished to offer was an invitation to dialogue between adherents to different religions, because the experience of Christ creates this desire for unity between peoples based on a dialogue that respects all authentic human experiences. We expressed this conviction in the words of Pope John Paul II to the United Nations in 1995: "Because of the radiant humanity of Christ, nothing genuinely human fails to touch the hearts of Christians." We must be where mankind is, so that through our presence the human situation may become a sign of the Mystery, so that Mystery and sign coincide, and justice, peace, and freedom may thus be experienced in this world.
We do not know the results that Divine Providence will bring about from this activity. But we are convinced that they will be the real fruit of the testimony given, contributing to the Incarnation of the Body of the Risen Christ, which is the only destiny for which all human beings are created.