Pope Benedict XVI's Dream and the Natural Thirst for Justice
netherworld, to a sort of purgatory. The good done on earth is repaid ten-fold, and the evil punished ten-fold. And there are some evildoers--such as the tyrant Ardiaeus the Great--who are incurable, and for whom heaven is forever foreclosed. They are damned.
Belief in this myth, Socrates says, allows us to "hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal." (Republic 621d) Eternal life and judgment must be created--even if it be in myth--for the world to have been well-made and our thirst for justice quenched.
In his version of Plato's Republic, Cicero concludes with his own "Myth of Er," the so-called "Dream of Scipio." Here, Cicero describes the dream of the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus. He is visited by his dead adoptive grandfather, Scipio Africanus, who comes to him from heaven as in a vision or dream. The younger Scipio is enjoined to do justice. It is the life of justice that leads to heaven, the heaven from whence the elder Scipio comes, a heaven as resplendent as the beauty of the Milky Way. Life on earth is fleeting, the elder Scipio reminds the younger, but we are promised a life hereafter. Before he wakes up, the younger Scipio is admonished to contemplate the heavens and eternal life so that he may act rightly on earth.
Again, eternal life and judgment must be dreamed--even if it be in specters and visions--for the world to have been well-made and for our yearning for justice to be met.
The Good News of Easter is that the puzzle which Plato and Cicero struggled to solve is resolved for us, in fact has been revealed to us.
Not, however, by myth, and not by dream. But by a brute historical reality that happened once in history, but which Catholics repeat anew at every Mass, and which the Christ's faithful announce at the Memorial Acclamation: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
"The justice of God," St. Paul tells the Romans, "has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Rom. 3:21-22). Christ is God's justice. This Christ, who is God's justice, we say will come again. When Christ comes again, it will be to judge the living and the dead, scriptural words which we repeat in our Creed. (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1) It is also our belief that when Our Lord returns to judge in the Last Judgment, our bodies shall rise again, like Christ the firsfruits, rose from the grave. (1 Cor. 15:23)
This means that Moses Roper, Sadako Sasaki, Ludwig Brügel, Brandon Buchanan, and all those who did them wrong will rise again. And all will be judged in the Judgment, a judgment required so "that the providence of God, which, on earth often permits the good to suffer and the wicked to prosper, may in the end appear just before all men," as the Baltimore Catechism succinctly explains.
Here we get to Benedict XVI's "dream." In Jesus we learn that "there is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive, yet we can begin to grasp it through faith," writes Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spe salvi. "Yes," he continues, "there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an 'undoing' of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright." (Spe salvi, 43)
Injustice does not have the last word. Justice has the last word. "God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ." (Spe salvi, 43, 44)
The reality of the revelation--proof that it is not a myth and not a dream--is confirmed for us in the historical fact of Christ's Resurrection: Christ's empty tomb.
"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matt. 28:6)
That is why in his encyclical Spe salvi Benedict XVI tells those who yearn for justice but see it unfulfilled in this world, and who do not know Christ the following personal words. He speaks not here not so much as Pope, but as a man to men without faith, without hope, but who yearn for justice. "I am convinced," Pope Benedict XVI says, "that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life."
Here is Pope Benedict XVI's "Dream." There is, the Pope says, a "purely individual need for a fulfillment," a need for justice "that is denied to us in this life." It was denied to Moses Roper, to Sadako Sasaki, to Ludwig Brügel, to Brandon Buchanan, to hundreds of millions more. Nothing they could do, nothing we can do, can give them justice. ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Justice, resurrection, Pope Benedict, death to life, Andrew M Greenwell
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