Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Why doesn’t God love everyone equally?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

On May 1, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI will declare that his predecessor as bishop of Rome and universal pastor, the late Pope John Paul II, is “Blessed.” This means that we can believe that Pope John Paul II lives with the Lord in heaven and we can pray to him publicly. It is not as authoritative an action as canonization, when someone can be called a saint, but it is nonetheless an important event in the story of sanctity in the Church. A pilgrimage, sponsored by New World Publications, will be going to Rome for the beatification ceremony (For information, see Update on Page 4.).

The process of beatification is a public procedure and, in the case of Pope John Paul II, all the steps were followed except for the fact that his “cause” for beatification was allowed to begin almost immediately after his death. Normally, five years must pass after a person’s death before a cause can be introduced. Once introduced, however, the process resembles the writing and defense of a historical thesis in which the proposed saint’s entire life is subjected to scrutiny to see if he or she practiced the supernatural and natural virtues to a heroic degree. This research takes time, although a life so public as was the late pope’s meant that the sources and evidence were already very available.

The second major element in the process is the verification of a miracle, an occasion of supernatural intervention that cannot be explained in natural terms. A proposed miracle, which is usually an inexplicable and sudden medical cure, is submitted first to a panel of doctors and scientists and then to a second panel composed of theologians. The first panel examines the question of whether natural causes might account for a cure; the second panel looks to see if signs of supernatural causality might be present. The miraculous cure in this cause was a sudden healing of a patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease, an illness that also afflicted Pope John Paul II himself.

Pope John Paul had the reputation of sanctity during his lifetime. In talking to him, I often sensed that he was also talking to the Lord in an inner conversation that sustained everything else he said and did. His sense of divine providence working in history was evident, as was his deep love for the Christ he proclaimed all over the globe and for Christ’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A saint lives in loving intimacy with God, who creates that love in the saint by first loving him or her. Since there are great saints and little saints, God doesn’t love everyone equally. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know why God loves some people more than others, but recognizing this difference reinforces our conviction that everyone is unique and challenges any assertion that everyone is equal, except before the abstract principles of the law. Life, however, is not a dialogue with legal principles. In life, differences abound in our relations to God and to other people. The differences — between the two sexes, among diverse races and cultures, in personal history and desire — make life rich. If we ignore them, we risk living only with ideas, divorced from real people. We become ideologues of “equality.”

Even if God loves each of us differently and unequally, he still loves us all. Thinking of sanctity, we have to ask also about our love for God. Do we all love God equally? Obviously not; but why not? I suppose there are as many answers as there are human creatures, but two reasons not to love God or at least not to love him as he wants to be loved come to mind.

First of all, perhaps our intimacy with God is stymied by fear, especially by fear of punishment. We tend to avoid those we fear; we ignore those who might ask us embarrassing questions, even God. This has been the pattern of human interaction with God ever since Adam and Eve hid from him after their disobedience in the garden. Perhaps, secondly, we resist intimacy with God because we resent losing our autonomy, our imagined self-sufficiency. To love another means he or she has entry into one’s life. To love God means he directs our life in ways we sometimes don’t care to go. Better to keep our distance, loving enough to be safe but not given to considering what God wants in our every thought and action. What makes great saints, however, is the desire to please God in every detail of their lives.

People who are holy, whether or not publicly recognized by the church as saints, keep the world from turning into hell. They are the greatest gift to the human race in every age. A holy life is also a gift to the saints themselves. It must be prayed for. With the beatification of Pope John Paul II, we can ask, through his intercession, for the grace to become saints ourselves.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago