zum Benedikt Anliegen

Click here

for Benedict’s cause

Consolation and confidence

Pope Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger on dying, death, and eternal life 

Papst Benedikt XVI. bei einer Ostermesse im Angesicht mit Jesus.

Christ knocks at the door of our life

In the signs of death, the end is knocking at the door of our lives. But this end is not merely destruction. Deep down we know that in all the devastations and hardships of our existence, in the constant presence of death itself, it is Christ who knocks at the door of our lives.  Christ, who pulls us away from the false self-importance of egoism, who leads us into the freedom of faith, which nothing can frighten, nothing can dismay, because it has recognized that one man, for whom everything has fallen apart, in fact never falls into the bottomless abyss, but ultimately into the arms of eternal Love, which awaits us at the bottom of the world itself. May this confidence grow within us in the passio of our lives, so that we too may learn to pray again: Come, Lord Jesus. So that we too may learn to recognize in the end the true beginning, in death the baptism that leads us to the resurrection and eternal life. Come, Lord Jesus!

Death is a road of hope

For if God exists, and if this God has willed and continues to will man, then it is clear that his love is capable of doing what human love wants to do in vain: to keep the beloved alive beyond death. Our cemeteries, with their symbols of devotion and faithfulness are actually such attempts by love to somehow hold on to the other, to provide him or her with some lasting piece of life. And indeed, to some degree, the other really does live on in us – not the person as such, but something of him or her. God can hold on to more – not only thoughts, memories, consequences, but every person him or herself. It was thus that for Christians, the attempts by ancient philosophy to understand death also made sense: It had said: If you wish to endure beyond death, then you must receive into yourself as much as possible of those things which are eternal: Truth, justice, goodness. The more of these things you have in you, the more remains of you, the more you remain. Or rather: You must cling to the eternal, so that you become part of it and take part in its eternity. To cling to the truth and to thus belong to become part of that which is can never be destroyed – this now becomes quite real and comes quite close: Cling to Christ – he will carry you through the night of death, which he himself has passed through. It is in this way immortality becomes meaningful. No longer is it an endless duplication of the now, but something entirely new, yet still truly our eternity:  To be in the hands of God and thus to be one with all the brothers and sisters he made for us, one with all of creation – this alone is real life, which we now glimpse only though the haze. Without an answer to the question of God, death remains a cruel mystery, and every answer leads to contradictory conclusions. But if God exists, the God who revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ, then there is eternal life, and then even death is a road of hope.

The real life

That is the important thing. That we become capable of God and so are enabled to enter into eternal life. Yes, he came so that we might come to know the truth. So that we might touch God. So that the door might be open. So that we might find life, the real life, that is no longer subject to death.

Our hope lies in the love of God

How should we Christians respond to the question of death? We respond with faith in God, with a gaze of firm hope founded on the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, death opens to life, to eternal life, which is not an infinite duplicate of the present time, but something completely new.

Faith tells us that the true immortality for which we hope is not an idea, a concept, but a relationship of full communion with the living God: it is resting in his hands, in his love, and becoming in him one with all the brothers and sisters that he has created and redeemed, with all Creation.

Our hope, then, lies in the love of God that shines resplendent from the Cross of Christ who lets Jesus’ words to the good thief: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43) resound in our heart. This is life in its fullness: life in God; a life of which we now have only a glimpse as one sees blue sky through fog.

Buchcover Gesammelte Schriften Joseph Ratzinger Auferstehung und Ewiges Leben vom Herder Verlag

Recommended Reading: 
Volume 10 of the Collected Works of Joseph Ratzinger (Joseph Ratzinger Gesammelte Schriften, JRGS), "Resurrection and Eternal Life"