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Chapter 34: Christian Life Animated with Hope of Everlasting Life


We have seen why hope of everlasting life is necessary for living the Christian life (28‑G). Christians have always held that hope gives meaning to the whole of their lives and distinguishes them from the lives of people without hope. Still, the relationship between life in this world and Christian hope for everlasting life needs to be clarified. Which of several possible accounts one accepts makes a great difference to the way one regards Christian life in this world.

This chapter criticizes two distinct Christian views of the matter as well as modern secular humanism. The latter denies the afterlife altogether, but does so partly to safeguard certain values originating in the Christian understanding of the dignity of human persons. By bringing to bear Vatican II’s vision of Christian humanism, the inadequacies of the preceding views can be avoided. In the light of this vision, the chapter offers a fresh account of the relationship between life in this world and the fulfillment in our Lord Jesus for which we hope.

The doctrine of the fulfillment of all things in Jesus shows the inadequacy of the other-worldliness of much Catholic moral and spiritual thought, of modern secular humanist thought, and of various contemporary optimistic mixtures of these currents of thought. None of these adequately explains the relationship between the divine and human in Christian life. Nor does any of them rightly understand the continuity and discontinuity between this life and the next. Our heavenly vocation and our earthly duty to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world are intrinsically related. Heaven includes the perfection of all the good things of this life, both human and divine. But heavenly fulfillment requires an act of divine re-creation, which alone can finally overcome sin and all its effects.