A Word in Season
Benedict XVI, the Catechism, and the Hope of Heaven
I have a first edition English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in hardcover. Ever since my great awakening to my Catholic faith in my teen years, I've been reading about our faith and taking theology classes when I could. So in 1992, when I heard that the Catholic Church was putting out a new catechism, the theology geek in me bought a copy when the English translation arrived in 1994.
Within the first seventy pages or so, I was hooked. I had no idea who was responsible for what I was reading, but the clarity of the teaching grabbed me.
There were several "teachable moments" where the Catechism affirmed what I already believed, or corrected or challenged my understandings. I'll share just one instance that blessed me, and came back to bless me again years later, and is blessing me still.
The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. (CCC, par 260)
What? God wants union with his creatures? Up until that point I had understood that Jesus loved me. I understood that Jesus died for my sins. I understood that those graces had the power to change me and be like Jesus. But my understanding fell short of such a love yielding this kind of a bond as my entering into union with God.
Everything in God's plan of salvation—another name for the "divine economy"—is moving toward God. Myself included. The Trinity is my destiny and yours.
This woke me up as it gave me pause.
This one sentence kept coming alive in my mind over and over again. It expanded my image of God, my relationship with him and his heaven. For most of my adult life I vaguely acknowledged that, one day, I would die. Yet I never really considered the true hope of heaven, or what it might look like. I was merrily oblivious. Looking back, my rather lame vision of heaven included clouds and angels and what not. God's heaven was a very distant "place" that didn't demand my meditation. But I began to ask myself, how can one truly have hope without knowing where the source of hope comes from?
Good catechesis, and the power of the Holy Spirit, has a way of making us dig deeper until we own what we profess to believe.
Two years later, in 1996, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the weight of my own mortality squarely rested across my shoulders. During that time of stress and heartache, what the Catechism had taught me came alive. I remembered that line about entering into the unity of the Trinity. My life, lived well—yoked to Christ—would someday have this potential to be permanently joined to God; to be in union with the Persons of the Trinity for eternity.
Heaven would be all about this relationship!
That one little sentence of truth from the Catechism brought me such hope, and clear direction for the rest of my life! And hope is exactly what one needs, not only when facing a cancer diagnosis, but, really, every single day.
Fast forward, years later, into cancer survivorship—the same Catechism was still challenging me, and it was a catalyst for my returning to graduate school in my forties. There were thousands of footnotes in the Catechism, and I wanted to know what they all meant! (That thirst eventually led me to seek a Masters in the theology, and I received my diploma in 2008—twelve years post-cancer!)
Pat Gohn is a writer, speaker, and host of the Among Women podcast and blog. She holds a Masters in Theology, and a Bachelors in Communications. Her passion is working within the sphere adult faith formation both in parish life and in using media for evangelization and catechesis. Find more at www.patgohn.net.