So as better to grasp its relationship with the world, the church has also deepened its understanding of another concept: the relationship between the history of humankind and the history of salvation. For a very long time we were accustomed to think that human history, with all its joys and sorrows, achievements and failures, was something provisional, something ephemeral, something that, in comparison with the ultimate fulness that awaits Christians, was of little consequence. It seemed that the history of humankind and the history of salvation ran along parallel lines. The lines met only in eternity. In short it appeared that secular history was nothing more than a period of trial, leading to final salvation or condemnation.
The church has a different view of human history nowadays. It is not mere opportunism or a desire to adapt itself to the world that brings it to think differently. It is because it has genuinely recovered the insight, which runs throughout the pages of the Bible, into what God is doing in human history. This is why it has to take that history very seriously. Vatican II certainly recalled the traditional understanding of the church as being on pilgrimage toward that “future and abiding city,” but added that the church at the same time reveals “in the world faithfully through darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light.”
Medellín asserts the unity of history more clearly still:
Catechetical teaching must manifest the unity of God’s plan. While avoiding confusion or simplistic identifications, it must always make clear the profound unity that exists between God’s plan of salvation realized in Christ, and the aspirations of man; between the history of salvation and human history.
Our continent’s longing for liberation, even the partial achievement of that full liberation of body and soul, is a clear sign of the presence of God in history.
With these affirmations Medellín put an end to the secular dualism we had subscribed to, the dichotomy between the temporal and the eternal, between the secular and the religious, between the world and God, between history and the church. “In search for salvation we must avoid the dualism which separates temporal tasks from the work of sanctification.”
Archbishop Oscar Romero, Voice of the Voiceless: The Four Pastoral Letters and Other Statements, 67.