And we celebrated All Saints’ Day, whose meaning expressed the goal, the interior purpose of man … As I was reading the Gospel for All Saints’ Day and reading the eight repetitions: “Beati estis
, blessed are you when…” (Mt. 5:3ff – Sermon on the Mount, Gospel for the Feast of All Saints), I asked the question: What is meant by this word “blessed”? What is meant by this happiness that is promised to people here? … Beati estis
– eight times we proclaimed those words to mankind for All Saints’ Day.
This past week I went to see a film here in Munich, a film that, day after day, for weeks now, has been giving people a sermon about human happiness, too. In this film, too, there is much talk of happiness and redemption and the meaning of existence…I am talking about the film, I Accuse. Many of you will have heard of it. It has do with a happy family life: two people made for each other; an intimate life together; growing together from one success to the next. A happy life and happy atmosphere and happy hearts. And then like a bolt from the blue in the midst of this, comes the wife’s illness, the incurable, progressive paralysis. First of all, the couple’s rebellious reaction and their attempt, by any means possible, to defeat this demon. However, they reach the limits of their strength, and then comes just the right solution: To “let her go”. You cannot do this to a person, cannot let her suffer like that, so you—let her go. This human being dies before bearing out the term of her suffering.
That, too, is a message about happy people. Here, too, a “beatus” is expressed, a beatus, not as a promise, but as an end in itself: Man should be happy and make others happy. When he can no longer do this, then life begins to lose its meaning; and what is meaningless is basically untenable and unjustifiable, and it dies.
We have to inwardly confront these things from our viewpoint of the value of human life, and of the eight repetitions of “beati”. This has to do with the ultimate foundations. This really concerns the ultimate attitudes and decisions and, with them, there is no such thing as an interim solution. “I Accuse!” This film accuses an order of life that “forces” people to go on living and—through every pore—it accuses a God who lets something like this happen.
What do we have to say to these proposals, from our holy mountain, from the viewpoint of our holy message? The details of the film are not so important to us; lots of films are shown that are trash. But here, there is an intention and an attitude behind it. And this whole attitude is, first of all, deception. Deception is the prerequisite, the space, in which the monstrous illness breaks in. This cultivated happiness, people wandering from one joyous moment to the next… Actors can play it, but look and see if life is really like that. The deception that you should spot in the background is the idea that without the monstrous illness, this life would always be on the way to this seductive total happiness here in this world.
That is the first deception, and with it, the prerequisite itself is wrong on which the whole discussion is based. And the second deception is the manner and method in which – pardon the expression – a soothing appeal is made to the tear ducts of the audience, so that sympathy removes the strength to seriously question these things. That is the second deception. The third deception is the endless discussion of love and letting go, the eternal termination of all difficulties and precepts and everything lasting, for the benefit of – indeed, for the benefit of whom? Basically, for the benefit of the more comfortable solution…
A community that gets rid of someone—a community that is allowed to, and can, and wants to get rid of someone when he no longer is able to run around as the same attractive or useful member—has thoroughly misunderstood itself. Even if all of a person’s organs have given out, and he no longer can speak for himself, he nevertheless remains a human being. Moreover, to those who live around him, he remains an ongoing appeal to their inner nobility, to their inner capacity to love, and to their sacrificial strength. Take away people’s capacity to care for their sick and to heal them, and you make the human being into a predator, an egotistical predator that really only thinks of his own nice existence.
The arguments in the film go like this: “This woman is no longer the same as the beautiful wife whom I loved.” And from the wife’s side: “My husband cannot love me anymore if I am ill and ugly; tired and wasting away.” What kind of a marriage vow was it that applied only to sparkling eyes and beautiful cheeks, but did not apply to the loneliness, to the distress, to standing together all the way to the finish! Some like to call these arguments “the greater love”: Rather, it would be the greater cowardice that pulled back here. Pulled back to escape from the responsibility, from the innermost attitude of commitment to another human being. It is escape. It takes away from man the last chance of his existence.
W. Corsari has written a book, The Man without a Uniform, which tackles the same problems: Doctor or human being? Is it permissible for a doctor to “let someone go” someone by killing them? The doctor does it and is ruined by it. One patient escapes him. After fifteen years, he meets her again, crippled, ruined, sclerotic. “Well,” he asks her, “would you have wanted to die, at that time?”
“Yes, perhaps, at that time. But not today. Not anymore. What these fifteen years of conscious suffering have revealed to me about inner values, and what I have learned to understand and to comprehend, that makes up for everything else.”
Because one is fleeing from what is hard, one takes away a human being’s last chance of maturing, of persevering, of proving himself. That is why the whole thing is not only a lie and an escape. It is a rebellion. It is an outrage. It is an encroachment on rights that must stand inviolable if the entire cosmos is not to fall apart. It is an outrage against the Kyrios, the one and only Lord of life. Where God, the Lord, has not set aside the right to existence, that right stands inviolably under His love, under His fidelity, and under His punishment. A nation that lets a human being die, even a human being in the most extreme situation, will die itself. It is an outrage against the human being who, through his birth and his existence alone, already has rights that no one can take from him, and that no one can touch without disgracing humanity, and disgracing himself, and despising himself.
That is the view of life from our holy mountain. When we hear “beati estis, blessed are you”, then it is always connected to a promise, to a trial: When you hunger and thirst…When you suffer persecution…When you persevere…When you remain in [God’s] order…When you stay faithful…When you carry on with life as it stands, rather than wanting to remodel it out of personal right, and personal might, and personal authority … As His own image and likeness, God released man into life and promised: “Your reward will be great and glorious in Heaven”
Father Delp was known for challenging his parishioners with words that also could be a call to our own consciences today. Father Delp’s listeners knew well the events to which he referred.Those who worried about his safety were right – he would be with them only three years before his arrest and eventual martyrdom. They would remember him as a “voice calling in the wilderness”, a “prophet” whose message was timeless