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A Unified Vision of Reality

September 6, 2020 (1,359 words)

So the other day I’m watching a short little video from Cross Catholic Outreach that landed in my in-box. It features a man identified in a caption as Cardinal Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala, a guy who looks to be about my age.

He is riffing on the reasons why we in the First World should contribute to the less fortunate in far-away countries, and how we should think about those contributions. He calmly runs through a series of references to bolster his case – starting with the well-known adage that it is better to give than to receive.

Diving a little deeper, he points out the dynamics of the Christian spirit should always be to forget myself and to think of others. But he is careful to note when I do this, it must not be to take advantage of others, or to be liked by them, but rather to truly seek the good and well-being of those others.

The interesting thing, according to this Ramazzini person, is that when I live in this dynamic of forgetting myself, because I want to live the love of God by loving others – since, after all, I can’t see God, but I can see my neighbor – the result is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our life: a deep joy that comes from knowing I am on the path that God wants for all humanity.

Here is more from this short little YouTube video with an old guy by the name of Ramazzini:

Many of the tragedies and the sadness and the anguish – all that is pain on the Earth – is simply the result of the lack of love between us. The greatest commandment is to love God above all things (i.e. money, power, and pleasure – the usual suspects), and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we live according to this “golden rule” we realize that we can be happy, even if we are poor.

Not for nothing, folks, but Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, and blessed are the (actual) poor for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Having before us the practice of the Beatitudes should remain a source of joy because when I practice them, I am saying I love God and I love my neighbor.

Love must always be directed to those who need it most. And those who need it most, in the words of Pope Francis and the Bishops that were in Aparaecida (State of Sao Paulo, Brazil), are the disposables – the ones we do not even know exist. Towards them should our actions of love be directed.

When we live in that way we will find a very special joy in our hearts.

I think one of the very serious consequences of being economically or materially rich is exactly what happened in the Gospel of St. Luke in the parable of the rich man and the poor man. The rich man ate at a banquet every day, dressed splendidly, was always at parties. He hadn’t noticed there was a poor sick man at his door, with wounds over his entire body. The Gospel of St. Luke says the poor man’s state was so bad that dogs would approach to lick his wounds.

The rich man didn’t even give this unfortunate the crumbs that fell from the table. In a way this helps explain how you cannot serve God and money at the same time. If you turn money into your God, then you will forget the true God, and you will forget your neighbor.

That is why I believe that wealth can be an obstacle. When Jesus talks about the way to reach eternal life, he mentions that it is a very narrow path. Unfortunately when people forget the transcendence of life – because life ends here but starts over there – they become indifferent and become selfish.

I consider finding that sense of truly forgetting about myself, in order to share what I have with others who have less, can give anyone an incredible feeling of personal fulfillment. But it’s not just a matter of saying it, for anyone can say it. What I truly want is for you to experience it. This is meant for you who are watching and listening to me, to make this an experience in your life.

You will also realize that we are all pilgrims in this land and that what we really need is to prepare ourselves for our definitive encounter with God.

When this happens, everything will become relative. Money will be relative. Fame will be relative. Power will be relative. Everything will be relative, because you realize, as Saint Augustine says, that God made us for Him, and our hearts will be restless until we rest in Him.

That is why my exhortation is to remember it is always better to give than to receive. And I realize that in many cases this is approached from the point of view of charity. If I want to do works of mercy I typically give alms, I give a contribution, I provide support. And all that is wonderful.

For the word of God teaches that those who give alms are definitely fulfilling one of Jesus’ mandates. But there is also another way of understanding things, and that is from the point of justice.

I believe that Christians should not just think they are called to share what they have only because there are others who are poorer. They should also do it as a duty of justice: to be able to help others who haven’t had the same opportunities or the same resources as you may have had in your life.

That passage from the Old Testament when manna fell from heaven has always been very significant to me. It was food for all the Israelites that were in the desert. When the manna stopped falling, nobody needed more and nobody had left-overs. I believe that is the ideal.

The ideal will always be to understand that although I may have a lot, God will hold me accountable for the way I lived my life. I should start now to find a sense of personal fulfillment by sharing what I have.

I urge the people who support the projects of Cross Catholic Outreach to be generous, knowing that one day, when you present yourself before God, He is not going to ask you how much money you made, how much money you were able to accumulate, how many bank accounts you had.

He will ask you, did you feed the hungry? Did you give water to the thirsty? Did you visit the sick and in prison? Did you support and take care of the migrant? Those will be the words of the final judgement.

We must understand life from the perspective of eternity. We are pilgrims here on Earth, and we are walking in this journey. There will come a moment when we see God, face to face, and we will see our lives as they were.

Okay, sure, these are things we’ve all heard before. In fact, these sentiments can be said to form the basis of many a (boring) Sunday homily, can they not?

But Ramazzini’s easy command of the material, the quiet enthusiasm with which he presents it, and the intimate, conversational nature of the video itself all combine to have me on the edge of my seat. There are goosebumps on my arms and tears beginning to form in my eyes.

It’s true I may need a translator to understand what Cardinal Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala is telling us in his little YouTube video. But the concepts that animate his mind, and the minds of millions of other non-English-speaking people around the world, are ones that have resonated with me since I first reached the age of reason as a little boy.

There are many things I find myself grateful to my dear, departed parents for, but introducing me at a young age to these universal truths and this unified vision of reality is right at the top of the list.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
September 6, 2020

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