One of my regular readers wrote to me recently, asking me to speak to the following issue:
“What I really want to say is, that when you are teaching, or when the topic of Confession comes up, please, please, please, tell people that it is God's job to perfect them. I did not understand this and so I think I stayed away for that much longer thinking that I had to be perfect. You'd have thought that every parish I went to was populated by Saints, not by people just like myself who were really struggling!”
The Catholic understanding of redemption is simple: God became man so that man might become God (2 Peter 1.4 and 1 John 4.7-13). Christ makes it possible for us to partake in the divine nature. I teach my students here at UD this definition of Catholic spirituality: spirituality in an academic setting is the study of the ways that we are perfected in our participation in the divine nature. Notice the passive voice of the verbs in that sentence. That is very intentional. We are perfected. We do not perfect ourselves. Aquinas teaches that an imperfect creature cannot perfect itself. For an imperfect creature to be perfected it must be perfected by something more perfect than itself. For us, that’s God—Perfection Himself. The spiritual project that we are cooperating with is the conversion of our lives in such a way that we are living now as if we were already in heaven. The five-dollar theological phrase for this is “living eschatologically,” living toward the Eschaton (The End). Our End is always God. Our Goal, Purpose, Reason for Existence, The Point of Us Being Here is God. Nothing we can do, say, believe, think, feel, or buy will perfect us. Because everything we can do, say, believe, think, feel, or buy is imperfect as well and nothing imperfect can perfect the imperfect. Bottomline: you exist b/c God is Being Himself. You are redeemed b/c God is Love Himself. You are being perfected b/c God is Perfection Himself. You will come to live with Him forever in heaven b/c God is Beauty Himself.
Fr. Philip, OP