John Paul II commenced his duties as a Pope when the Catholic Church was going through intricate moments. The church experienced condemnation and self-doubt, which were major indicators of disintegration. Indeed, the contemporary world, which had attested to have positive evolutions to humankind, brought threats to the lives of people. Nonetheless, John Paul II was convinced that all would be well, and he detailed what he intended to do during his reign as a pope. He inscribed his encyclical epistle, Redemptor Hominis, to catholic believers of all ranks. In his epistle, the new Pope recapitulated the goals that he endeavored to accomplish before terminating his term. Essentially, he aimed at employing all possible endeavors to implore everybody to Christ. Through continued struggles, the Pope focused on shielding human rights and launching ways to strengthen the progress through moral dimensions. With Christ as the center of the reformation and history, Pope John Paul II believed that the church would have a fresh movement that would be much stronger than the earlier church (Paul 1). The new Pope divided his encyclical epistle into various themes, and this paper gives a reflective essay of his epistle with special emphasis on the person of Christ in the contemporary world.
The Person of Christ and His Situation in the Contemporary World
Christ United Himself with Humanity
The commonest believe about the person of Christ in the contemporary world is that Jesus unified himself with humanity during his stay on earth. The mystery of Jesus Christ designates that He stood the test of time and represented the church, which the redeemed people ought to follow. The incarnation of Christ is an apparent indication that Jesus Christ loved humanity to the extent of uniting and associating them with Him. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the church to enhance and replenish its union with Christ daily (Nachef 18). The church has always aspired to enable every person to find Christ and hold fast to His teachings, which centers on the truth and spirit, in spite of the challenges in the contemporary world.
The encyclical of Pope John Paul II portrays Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life that leads the believers of Christ into His Father’s house. Although humans can choose to follow Christ or not, the Pope insists that it is a requirement for any person with intentions to have eternal life. Jesus is the only link that connects humanity to God, and thus, He protects the church from the forces of apostasy. In his encyclical, John Paul II says that the church comprises of a group of Christians, who form the body of Christ. Therefore, the church, as a body of Christ, ought to follow the ways of Christ, and in so doing, it cannot remain heartless in the face of worldly occurrences. Based on His teachings and actions, it is very encouraging to note that Jesus Christ was such a good shepherd, who addressed all matters that affect humanity. He ordered the church to take the responsibility of guarding and advocating for the welfare of humanity (Murphy 30). However, that does not mean that people ought to confuse the church with the political community, as it acts as a mediator of Christ and humanity.
In his encyclical, Pope John Paul II indicates that mothers conceive out of sin; however, they bear children with the image and likeliness of God. Consequently, the children of peccadillo must obtain redemption before they can take on the responsibilities in the church. The person of Christ is conscious of the fact that a human being is the only creature on earth that God created according to his image, and thus, He fully symbolizes the mystery of creation. God chose humans amongst all creatures and destined them to live under His grace and receive glory. Therefore, humans become heirs of Jesus Christ once mothers conceived them in their wombs.
The Church and Christ are Inseparable
The person of Christ and the church are inseparable, as the church cannot afford to abandon humans regardless of situations. The birth, salvation, calling, death, and the entire destiny of the person of Christ have an unbreakable link with humanity. However, in the contemporary world, humans encounter diverse situations that they ought to wrestle with to stand as people of Christ. It is worth noting that humans, who aspire to be good, truthful, just, and loving, have to wrestle with external forces that compel them to sin. Other than sin, numerous threats of life may lead humans into apostasy. Sometimes, the external forces and the desires of the world may prove to be more powerful than humans are, and thus, they compel humans to transgress the precepts of Christianity. However, although humans are feeble and tend to be sinful, they remain under the grace and redemption power of Christ. Essentially, Christ died and resurrected for the sake of the sinful nature of humanity.
The imperative thing that the church ought to know is that humans are the rulers of the family, the society, and the entire nation, thus, it can effectively fulfil its mission through humanity. Since the church depends on the person of Christ for all its endeavors, it ought to take the role of redefining human life and ensuring that it corresponds to the rightful measures of dignity.
What Contemporary Humans Fears
In the contemporary world, humans are often afraid of the fruits of their labor. Pope John Paul II indicates that situations are becoming too demanding, as the evolving world requires humans to employ their intellectual abilities to come out of difficult situations. The unforeseen outcomes of human deeds bring trepidation, and as the consequence, apostasy occurs. The drama of the present day can worsen if human efforts go in vain when other people decide to take away the valuable products of hard work. In many cases, the part of the products that humans consider special may turn against them and become the basis of their downfall.
Pope John Paul II explains that when God created the earth, he ordered humans to control and dominate it. Nonetheless, although God gave humans the power to exploit the earth and make the best use of it, each of their actions has consequences (Mannion 22). Exploitation of the earth for industrial and military use, for example, will raise eyebrows, as humans tend to destroy the natural environment. The controversy that brings fear is the fact that God ordered humans to be the guardians of nature, but not the destroyers. However, the consumer mentality aims at ruining material resources without much concern about the consequences. The accelerated pace of ruining the environment threatens the next generation. In his encyclical, the Pope foresees the danger of various developments that transpire, and he proposes that there is a need to employ valiant and creative solutions that reflect the authentic dignity of the person of Christ. Through authentic dignity, humans ought to search for effective mechanisms to distribute resources. However, the Pope warns that the approach can be effective only if there is a true conversion of the mind, body, and the spirit at heart.
Technology is yet another item that brings fear in the contemporary world. Everyone commends technologists of their marvelous work in bringing development and making the world a global village. However, the person of Christ has the fear that the technological developments do not have an equal match with the development of morals and ethical conducts. The question on whether the developments have some substantial worth brings in yet another form of fear. Moreover, there are fears and doubts of whether the technological developments will enable humans to grow spiritually. The worst scenario is that humans fear that the developments might deny them the opportunity to display their responsibility to the needy and weak people in the society.
Pope John Paul II indicates that the escalation of social love and respect for the rights of other people is a requirement for the person of Christ. However, the greatest fear of the Christians in the contemporary world is that the degree of selfishness surpasses genuine love amongst people. Many people are trying to find all reasons to dominate others and exploit them in the name of technological production. The church and the true Christians have often taken the blame and they have developed fears about the technology and civilization that very few people can dare to oppose.
Progress or Threat
Pope John Paul II was able to foresee the jeopardy that technology would bring to the human life. The point in time during which the Pope wrote his first encyclical to the believers of the Catholic Church was approaching the end of the second millennium, and there were great technological developments. However, from a literal point of view, the developments are more of a great intimidation than a progress. The church was obligated to discover that the developments in the contemporary world would affect Christians living in good will, and therefore, serious dialogue was necessary to combat the possible threats. Indeed, the situation in the contemporary world discouraged moral order, promoted injustice, and dissipated social love.
Pope John Paul II reminds people that during creation, God created humans and gave them the supremacy to have control over the earth. The creator obligated human to value ethics more than technology. Moreover, humans were supposed to value humanity more than they value the worldly things. The threat that humans have in the technological world is that most development projects do not adhere to the commands of the creator. Essentially, a person of God ought to scrutinize things from all points of view before making any development. The greatest threat is the detectable error in the advances that humans make. Someday, the advancements made by humans might manipulate them directly or indirectly. Humans may have difficulties in organizing their social life, for they are susceptible to slavery of economic systems, political systems, as well as own activities. Indeed, the contemporary world has predisposed humans to great moral and material devastations. While few people can admit that the sufferings are self-made, the truth is that humans have contributed greatly in the development of the injustices and sufferings. Of course, no one would want to experience slavery from self-made things, but the bitter truth is that materialistic civilization would always lead to slavery. It is very discouraging to note that the things that humans made using their own hands and energy are subjecting them to great tension, abject misery, and frustrated life.
The divergence of the rich and the poor brings a dilemma, where one wonders whether it is a threat or progress. In the contemporary world, the divergence is eminent because of consumer civilization, which has major ethical effects. While some wealthy nations deal with food surpluses, people living in poor nations suffer from malnutrition, while others die of starvation. The issue of extreme differences in humankind is evident as powerful people abuse their freedom at the expense of some helpless people, who suffer in misery. Pope John Paul II likens the disparity to the rich banqueter and poor Lazarus, who endured much suffering. The progress or rather threat is widespread in the entire world, where social injustice continues to suppress poor, who live in frustration and much bitterness. Pope wonders if people are conscious of the Day of Judgment when Christ will declare that He was hungry, naked, and imprisoned, yet no one came to His rescue. Pope equates the situation with the wealthy states and the poor states with people starving to death. He proposes that instead of the wealthy nations concentrating in manufacturing contemporary weapons for their defense, they would rather invest in making the areas of misery and hunger fertile.
While the church is appealing for people to be mindful of their brothers, the irony is that people across the globe are preparing for the annihilation of their brothers. A critical analysis of the diverged gaps between the rich and the poor will always blame the political pressures that affect the economic system, production processes, distribution of resources, and the general growth of the economy. Overall, the fact remains that the issues are common because of the unjust social situations in the current world. The progress of the modern day subjects humans to great challenges and urgent ethical demands that may be impossible to apply in some cases.
Pope John Paul II analyses some interesting, yet very disappointing situations that affect the same person of Christ. Incidences of people remaining in a stationary position are widespread because they generate income on one hand and pay heavy penalties on the other hand. Moreover, some privileged people in the contemporary world have become so ill owing to the misuse and excessive accumulation of unnecessary riches. In his encyclical, Pope had fears that the authentic dignity of human was degraded because the poor experienced high rates of inflation and unemployment, while the wealthy lived in comfort. The only solution to such ill incidences is the employment of the principle of solidarity and the application of appropriate mechanisms to support a healthy competition in the economic sectors. Moreover, Pope John Paul II insists that there is a need to engage the true conversion of the mind and heart to attain progress instead of building threats.
The Struggle to Classify Human Rights as “Epistle” or “Spirit”
Since the ancient times, human beings have always had the right to live peacefully while expressing their power. Pope John Paul II obligates the church to take over the responsibility of defending human rights. If peace is to reign in the current world, people must respect human rights; otherwise, war would arise. God gave humans the power to lead the world and ensure that every action contributes to the common good of the society. Pope John Paul II indicates that one of the actions that promote common good is respect for human rights since it leads to true progress. It is noteworthy that whenever people disrespect human rights, they commit a radical injustice to human beings. Indeed, no social, political, or cultural program has the power to alter the description of the rights of human beings. Fundamentally, people violate human rights by causing violence, torture, terrorism, and discrimination.
Various conflicts arise because the state formulates regimes in its defense at the expense of the humans. While the regimes are good, they restrict human rights and prevent humans from realizing their potential. Despite the existence of tyrannical regimes, it is encouraging that the Declaration of Human Rights combats the issues associated with the violation of human rights. The organization is concerned with the welfare of humans and works to ensure that they live comfortably in the society. Moreover, the church employs efforts in ensuring that the state improvises regimes and keep them in tandem with human rights.
The church shares its joy with people of good will because it believes that human rights are more of a spirit than an epistle. While an epistle can kill, the spirit gives life in abundance, and this is the reason as to why the political community and the church will always have endless struggles. The state supports the epistle when it exercises power with little or no moral participation in the society. Fortunately, the church plays a greater role in educating citizens to act for a common good, and thus, plays a great role in cultivating good citizens in every state. What encourages humanity is that by faith the power of the Cross of Christ guides all people in spite of the fact that some of them endure discrimination and persecution. In his encyclical, Pope John Paul II appeals to people to respect the rights of the church to facilitate authentic progress in the society (Perry 36).
From the reflection of the encyclical of Pope John Paul II, it is evident that the person of Christ lives in a world with many difficulties to handle. Although the Pope insists on the need to have resolute commitment and solidarity to achieve transformation in an efficient manner, the reality is that it is almost impossible to achieve solidarity in the contemporary world. However, since Jesus Christ was a good shepherd, who wanted the best for his people, Christians should follow His footsteps. Any Christian belonging to the developmentally oriented group of people ought to have a sense of moral responsibility (Weigel 33). Christians ought to employ the greatest form of honesty, spiritual, and moral responsibility in their daily errands. They ought to show concern for the situations at hand and the possible consequences of their deeds. Christians ought to account for their deeds and ensure that their actions aim at the common good of humanity and God.
Mannion, Gerard. The Vision of John Paul II: Assessing His Thought and Influence. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2008. Print.
Murphy, Cannon. “American Theological Inquiry.” A Biannual Journal of Theology, Culture, and History 6.2 (2013): 23-36. Print.
Nachef, Antonie. Mary’s Pope: John Paul II, Mary, and the Church since Vatican II. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. Print.
Paul, John. Redemptor Hominis: The Redeemer of Man. Roma, Italy: Vatican Apostolic Library, 1979. Print.
Perry, Tim. The Legacy of John Paul II: An Evangelical Assessment. Westmont: InterVarsity Press, 2007. Print.
Weigel, George. Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000. Print.