Ratzinger on being human

In a fascinating discussion on praying for the dead, Ratzinger offers the following observation on what it means to be human being: ‘Yet the being of man is not, in fact, that of a closed monad. It is related to others by love or hate, and, in these ways, has its colonies within them. My own being is present in others as guilt or as grace. We are not just ourselves; or, more correctly, we are ourselves only as being in others, with others and through others. Whether others curse us or bless us, forgive us and turn our guilt into love – this is part of our own destiny. The fact that the saints will judge means that encounter with Christ is encounter with his whole body. I come face to face with my own guilt vis-à-vis the suffering members of the body as well as with the forgiving love which the body derives from Christ its Head … This intercession is the one truly fundamental element in their “judging.” Through their exercising of such judgment they belong, as people who both pray and save, to the doctrine of Purgatory and to the Christian practice which goes with it. As Charles Péguy so beautifully put it, “J’espère en toi pour moi”: “I hope in you for me.” It is when the “I” is at stake that the “you” is called upon in the form of hope’. – Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life (ed. Aidan Nichols; trans. Michael Waldstein; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988), 232.

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