Honoring Pope Benedict’s Legacy, part 3

By Guest Blogger Dr. Chris Baglow

When I was 14 years old a childhood friend stunned me with a bit of theology for which I was unprepared. In the midst of her very tragic and pain-filled young life, a life that had spiraled for four years after her mother died young of cancer, she declared to me that there is no heaven. She said that heaven was supposed to be a place where you are perfectly happy and where you know everything.  “If there’s a heaven,”  she said through pain and tears, “my mother would be there. She would know all about my life. AND SHE COULD NEVER BE HAPPY IF SHE COULD SEE ME TODAY.”

I answered with silence. I had no answer.  I found her logic flawless.  For a few years during my adolescent flirtation with atheism her logic became part of my own rejection of God.  In fact even as an adult believer, even after I had earned a Ph.D. in Theology and had become a seminary professor, I still could not see how both of the premises in her first statement, which seemed perfectly orthodox, could escape leading to her conclusion.  That is, until I read these words from a book called Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life by Joseph Ratzinger, where he shows us the truth about Heaven:

“Love cannot, then, close itself against others or be without them so long as time, and with it suffering, is real. How could a mother be completely and unreservedly happy as long as one of her children is suffering?  Here we can point to Buddhism, with its idea of the Bodhisattva, who refuses to enter Nirvana so long as one human being remains in hell.  Behind this impressive notion of Asian religiosity, the Christian sees the true Bodhisattva, Christ, in whom Asia’s dream became true. ‘Heaven’ means being drawn into the fullness of divine joy… In this sense, truly, heaven already exists.  Yet on the other hand, we have to also reckon with the openness of this fulfilled Love for history.  History is still real, it really continues and its reality is suffering.  Even though the outcome is already certain, such that all anxieties are born away and all questions have their response, nevertheless, the fullness of salvation is not yet realized so long as that salvation is only certain by anticipation in God, falling short of even so much as one person who still suffers.”

Well said! Yes, childhood friend, the bright ones in heaven know all.  Yes, they have happiness.  But they remain capable of and open to loving us in a way they never could in this sad life. While they have become entirely incapable of suffering from, they are now perfectly capable of suffering with.

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4 Responses to Honoring Pope Benedict’s Legacy, part 3

  1. Sherri Paris says:

    Wow. THAT was awesome….it gave me a glimpse perhaps of what my beloved mother and sister feel and pray as they wait in heaven for the rest of their loved ones….thank you.

    • I LOVE your energy and enthusiasm! It’s like I am walkingw ith you through your faith journey… Blessings! tn

      • Sherri Paris says:

        Thank you so much….please continue to pray for me….It truly is Lent…there has been great oppression and the enemy of my (our) soul is causing tension in my life. I pray that the Lord’s purposes will be fulfilled in my beloved husband–he is supportive of my journey to Rome but, the reality is hitting him…..long story here….

    • This is it — the hardest trials always come before the greatest blessings; like night before the dawn. Stay strong and cling to God and your faith community! Prayers for you……

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