Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pope Benedict on Death

As Fr Ryan said last night in his homily at St James Cathedral in Seattle, we have been made well aware of death of late, by the deaths of our own loved ones, and also by the disasters of war, flood, & earthquake in this year of far too much death. So how do we, in Fr Ryan's poignant words, make friends with death.

Pope Benedict too addressed this point yesterday, in his audience on All Souls:

"After celebrating yesterday the solemn feast of all the saints of heaven, today we remember all the deceased faithful. The liturgy invites us to pray for all our loved ones who have passed away, turning our thoughts to the mystery of death, common heritage of all people.

"Illuminated by faith, we look at the human enigma of death with serenity and hope. According to Scripture, the latter in fact is not an end but a new birth, it is the imperative passage through which the fullness of life may be attained by those who model their earthly existence according to the indications of the Word of God."

Pope Benedict then commented on Psalm 111 (112):

"Psalm 111(112), a composition of a sapiential nature, presents to us the figure of these just ones, who fear the Lord, acknowledge his transcendence and adhere with trust and love to his will in the expectation of encountering him after death.

"Docility to God is, therefore, the root of hope and interior and exterior harmony. Observance of the moral law is the source of profound peace of conscience. In fact, according to the biblical vision of \"retribution,\" over the just is extended the mantle of divine blessing, which imprints stability and success on his works and those of his descendants: \"Their descendants shall be mighty in the land, a generation upright and blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in their homes\" (verses 2-3; cf. verse 9).

"However, to this optimistic vision are opposed the bitter observations of the just Job, who experiences the mystery of sorrow, feels himself unjustly punished and subjected to apparently senseless trials. Job represents many just people who suffer profoundly in the world. It is necessary, therefore, to read this psalm in the global context of Revelation, which embraces the reality of human life in all its aspects.

"However, the trust continues to be valid, which the psalmist wishes to transmit and be experienced by him who has chosen to follow the way of morally irreprehensible conduct, against all alternatives of illusory success obtained through injustice and immorality."

The Holy Father then juxtaposes death and life and eternal life, by meditating on holiness and blessedness of the good person who loves God and loves neighbor:

"On this day in which we commemorate the dead, as I was saying at the beginning of our meeting, we are all called to face the enigma of death and, therefore, the question of how to live well, how to find happiness. Above all, the psalm responds: Blessed is the man who gives; blessed is the man who does not spend his life for himself, but gives it; blessed is the man who is merciful, good and just; blessed is the man who lives in the love of God and of his neighbor. In this way, we live well and do not have to be afraid of death, as we live in the happiness that comes from God and that has no end."

(Besides the inspiring and evocative meditation on death, the Pope gives us his own example of preaching that is of such breathtaking clarity, integrity, and symmetry, of such marvelous Beauty!)

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