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Chapter 19: Fulfillment in Jesus and Human Fulfillment

Question F: What is the perfection of our cooperation with the human acts of Jesus?

1. We shall see in chapters twenty-two and twenty-three how one cooperates with the human acts of Jesus in living out one’s fundamental option of faith in this life. However, this aspect of a Christian’s unity with Jesus—namely, fellowship in human acts and human goods—is also to be perfected in heaven. Christians have very often overlooked the place which properly human goods and actions have in heavenly fulfillment.

2. Jesus speaks in parable of heaven as a wedding feast (see Mt 22.1–14; 25.1–13). This figure is beautifully developed in the last, visionary book of the New Testament (see Rv 19.7–9). The blessed in God’s presence are also envisaged as sharing in an endless liturgy (see Rv 7.15). The Last Supper is clearly carried out in anticipation of the heavenly banquet: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Mt 26.29; cf. Mk 14.25; Lk 22.15–18).

3. Plainly, to conceive of heavenly fellowship as an endless wedding banquet calls attention to fulfillment in human goods. At a banquet bodily life is enriched by plentiful food and drink, while a wedding feast especially celebrates the vigor of life and its renewal. Music and dance, joyous performances done without a sense of burdensome effort, express play and skill. Practical business is set aside; the play of the mind and sheer communication are celebrated in conversation. Tensions are banished, and the companionship is warm. The hosts mingle with the guests; the home is open for hospitality. As St. Augustine says: “How great will be that happiness, where there will be no evil, where no good will remain hidden, where there will be leisure for the praises of God, who shall be all in all!” (FEF 1788).

4. Sin is excluded from human life in heaven, and with its exclusion every existential evil is likewise excluded: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rv 21.3–4). War will be at an end (see Is 2.4), and God’s children will find comfort like infants in his everlasting arms (see Is 66.11–14).

5. As was explained (in 2‑E), choices are spiritual entities which last. Although Jesus offers his body once for all on Calvary, his sacrificial act of obedience and mediation lasts forever (see Heb 7.25–28; 10.11–14). Mary becomes the mother of God by her assent to the divine proposal presented to her by the angel, but her assent does not cease; it is now the principle of her maternal relationship to all who are united with Jesus (see LG 63). Similarly, by the human acts which they do now, in cooperation with the grace of the Spirit, Christians constitute themselves in communion with the redemptive act of Jesus.

6. As was explained (in 18‑I), the act of a person who dies in mortal sin is never left behind. Similarly, the works of those who die in the Lord accompany them (see Rv 14.13). The brilliant white dress of finest linen worn by the Lamb’s Bride at their wedding “is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Rv 19.8; cf. 1 Cor 3.14; GS 39).

7. Little attention was paid before Vatican II to the fact that human acts last in heaven and that the blessed are fulfilled in their properly human goods. But the Council teaches that, even though “earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s kingdom,” still, “to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the kingdom of God”:

  For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in his Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured. This will be so when Christ hands over to the Father a kingdom eternal and universal: “a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love, and peace” [Preface of the Feast of Christ the King]. On this earth that kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns, it will be brought into full flower. (GS 39)

In short, the Council teaches that heaven and earth are not entirely separated; the kingdom is here, though invisible, and present human acts become part of it. When the Lord returns, the moral lives Christians live in communion with his redemptive act will be completed by rich fulfillment in all the human goods: The holy will be happy.