Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Is living a good life, good enough?

Do you ever wonder if you are living a life that is good enough for you to go to Heaven? What if you're not exactly saintly, but you haven't killed anybody either. On the day of Judgment, will the good outweigh the bad, or vice versa? Will your visits to the sick win over your gossipy nature? How is God going to judge us?

These are good questions and, thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI (who, btw, is very readable) gives us a hint at this in his latest encyclical Spe Salvi.

From Paragraph 46, in a reference to St. Paul's image of the Christian life being built upon Jesus Christ, the Pope says: "If we have stood firm on this foundation [Jesus Christ] and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. . . . If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward."

From Paragraph 47: "the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love."

What great news this is for those of us who hover somewhere between saintliness and sinfulness!

In Paragraphs 45-46, Pope Benedict also gives a description of a life that is filled with hatred and lies versus a beautiful life that is "completely permeated by God," noting that "neither case is normal in human life."

So, there you have it, we can find hope in a life well lived, even if it is not perfect!

Be sure to check out this letter; it is good food for thought.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pope Benedict the XVI on suffering

I am right in the thick of Pope Benedict's Encyclical Spe Salvi which was published in November, 2007. It seems to be taking me forever because I keep putting it down and coming back to it. Not because it's boring, though, but because it is simply overflowing with beauty!

I'd like to share with you just one tidbit of information from this letter on suffering. Pope Benedict says that "Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin which has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today."

Here we have our Holy Father identifying why we suffer. It is because, as human beings, there is a limit to us and secondly, because the perpetuation of sin is immense!

But for any of you that have considered that our world would be perfect without sin, and are, perhaps, rallying against a God who allows it to persist, keep the following in mind.

Again, from Pope Benedict:

"Indeed, we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power." Only God, he tells us, has the power to do this and we are reminded that only the Lamb of God can take away the sins of the world.

But, if you are like me, you have often wondered why, if Jesus can take away the sins of the world, does sin prevail? Pope Benedict reminds us quite beautifully that . . .

"Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world's healing has emerged in history. It is, however, hope--not yet fulfilment . . . "

And there you have it. We must never lose hope in the eternal justice of God who will prevail in taking away the sins of the world--some day--and remember that it is not in our power to do it.

If you have trouble with the idea of overcoming suffering (which typically arises from sin, but is not sin or punishment itself), think of my son . . .

Our son has been suffering for about a week or so from a wisdom tooth that will soon be pulled. In the meantime, I can throw Ibuprofen at him to try to "overcome" his suffering, but I am unable to remove the suffering. That can only be done by his oral surgeon.

Hmm. God, the great oral surgeon who rids the world of sin and suffering! Now there's a visual for you!

Honestly, we must do what we can in the face of suffering, but continue in hope for the day when the sins of the world, which cause so much of our suffering, will be taken away by God, who is always with us.