God and Edward M. Kennedy

At the risk of offending a grief stricken media, intent on canonizing the recently departed Senator Edward M. Kennedy (a necessary step for gaining entrance into the pantheon of liberal establishment idols), I direct attention to excerpts from a letter, which offer a glimpse into the Senator's vexed state of mind during his final days.

Judging from the letter's content, one could surmise that it was not of primary concern to "Ted" Kennedy that an airport, a library, or even a piece of legislation be named after him.  His final plea for absolution included the all important, preemptive clause: "I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path."

This poignant missive suggests that what Kennedy cared about the most - at least in his last days - was that he would receive an honest appraisal before God of his tireless efforts as a public servant. And what better person for him to entrust with a litany of the many worthy and penitential deeds he performed in this role than the presumed mediator between the late Senator and the Almighty, the Bishop of Rome.

"I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to..." is rendered the somewhat audacious soliloquy. A narrow variation of the colloquial I'll have you know, by which Kennedy recapitulates a laundry list of accomplishments, implying that the latter should serve as commensurate atonement for his life of debauchery, and perhaps even yield a standing ovation upon arrival at what we now know was his eternal home of preference. After all, isn't that what the Christian life is all about: making sure our good deeds outweigh our shortcomings?

Sadly, it is unlikely that Kennedy understood the full implications of such an approach. An offering of one's good deeds by proxy, as settlement before the Almighty, represents a rather bold appeal to His justice, which no human being could countenance, rather than his mercy, which we are all sorely in perennial need of. 

In light of the fact that we have all led a less than exemplary life in God's sight, and that there is not a great deal of merit to be found in the partaking of one's share in the universal bane of imperfection, there is infinitely far more advantage in recognizing that only one person is indeed perfect and sinless, and thus eminently qualified to stand between us perfectly wretched beings, and the ensuing, fully justified wrath of a most holy God: His son.

Moreover, when we assume that our own performance will reap God's clemency, we summarily reject the substitutionary death of his own Son on our behalf; God's one and only means that can sufficiently satisfy His justice and give way to His mercy.

A parade of our own achievements constitutes a supreme insult to God's offer of grace. For it is "by grace, through faith we have been saved, not by works" to paraphrase the words of the Apostle Paul, a close friend of the very first Pope.

Tragically, Kennedy's cathartic testimony revealed a gross omission of this central tenet of the faith to which he publicly avowed a sparse yet earnest fidelity. Tragic because, as far as the letter's excerpts indicate, it was with this impoverished understanding -- endemic in today's religious circles -- that he was ushered into the presence of the one to whom we all have to someday give account.

If Kennedy really believed that his faith alone could provide what he needed for entrance into the heavenly realms, then why burden the Pontiff  with an inventory of all of the good works he performed during his unusually extended tenure as a public servant?

Despite a Papal seal of approval of Kennedy's vain attempts to pull himself by his own bootstraps, so to speak, it is solely through the acceptance of the only one who did lead a perfect life in full accord and fulfillment of God's law, and then died on our behalf, that the canceling of a justified verdict of death against us is effected.

Kennedy's principal misunderstanding in this regard, despite his claim that he "never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of [his] faith", lies in the notion that good works are of supreme importance to the Almighty, and a good deposit for a future entrance into heaven. This misunderstanding was compounded by the fact that Kennedy also believed he could repair ("right my path") his innate sinful nature by the strength of his own will. The hope is that upon meeting with his maker, he did not seek to salvage any reward from either misconception.

Only God knows where Ted Kennedy will spend eternity. But to entreat -- nay demand -- that God judge us by our own merit is in effect to decline his more than sufficient provision which grants complete absolution for our sins. If Kennedy's first instinct when asking the Pope to intercede for him was to catalog his personal accomplishments, it's safe to say he was ill prepared to face the final judge of all.

God is not impressed by our service, nor can it earn us entrance into heaven; not according to the scriptures that Kennedy claimed to believe in, and with which, as a Catholic, he should have been better acquainted. One simply may not ask God to weigh our good works against our indiscretions. But we are more than qualified to fall in our faces before him and receive the mercy he has already promised, if we are willing to accept it.
At the risk of offending a grief stricken media, intent on canonizing the recently departed Senator Edward M. Kennedy (a necessary step for gaining entrance into the pantheon of liberal establishment idols), I direct attention to excerpts from a letter, which offer a glimpse into the Senator's vexed state of mind during his final days.

Judging from the letter's content, one could surmise that it was not of primary concern to "Ted" Kennedy that an airport, a library, or even a piece of legislation be named after him.  His final plea for absolution included the all important, preemptive clause: "I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path."

This poignant missive suggests that what Kennedy cared about the most - at least in his last days - was that he would receive an honest appraisal before God of his tireless efforts as a public servant. And what better person for him to entrust with a litany of the many worthy and penitential deeds he performed in this role than the presumed mediator between the late Senator and the Almighty, the Bishop of Rome.

"I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to..." is rendered the somewhat audacious soliloquy. A narrow variation of the colloquial I'll have you know, by which Kennedy recapitulates a laundry list of accomplishments, implying that the latter should serve as commensurate atonement for his life of debauchery, and perhaps even yield a standing ovation upon arrival at what we now know was his eternal home of preference. After all, isn't that what the Christian life is all about: making sure our good deeds outweigh our shortcomings?

Sadly, it is unlikely that Kennedy understood the full implications of such an approach. An offering of one's good deeds by proxy, as settlement before the Almighty, represents a rather bold appeal to His justice, which no human being could countenance, rather than his mercy, which we are all sorely in perennial need of. 

In light of the fact that we have all led a less than exemplary life in God's sight, and that there is not a great deal of merit to be found in the partaking of one's share in the universal bane of imperfection, there is infinitely far more advantage in recognizing that only one person is indeed perfect and sinless, and thus eminently qualified to stand between us perfectly wretched beings, and the ensuing, fully justified wrath of a most holy God: His son.

Moreover, when we assume that our own performance will reap God's clemency, we summarily reject the substitutionary death of his own Son on our behalf; God's one and only means that can sufficiently satisfy His justice and give way to His mercy.

A parade of our own achievements constitutes a supreme insult to God's offer of grace. For it is "by grace, through faith we have been saved, not by works" to paraphrase the words of the Apostle Paul, a close friend of the very first Pope.

Tragically, Kennedy's cathartic testimony revealed a gross omission of this central tenet of the faith to which he publicly avowed a sparse yet earnest fidelity. Tragic because, as far as the letter's excerpts indicate, it was with this impoverished understanding -- endemic in today's religious circles -- that he was ushered into the presence of the one to whom we all have to someday give account.

If Kennedy really believed that his faith alone could provide what he needed for entrance into the heavenly realms, then why burden the Pontiff  with an inventory of all of the good works he performed during his unusually extended tenure as a public servant?

Despite a Papal seal of approval of Kennedy's vain attempts to pull himself by his own bootstraps, so to speak, it is solely through the acceptance of the only one who did lead a perfect life in full accord and fulfillment of God's law, and then died on our behalf, that the canceling of a justified verdict of death against us is effected.

Kennedy's principal misunderstanding in this regard, despite his claim that he "never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of [his] faith", lies in the notion that good works are of supreme importance to the Almighty, and a good deposit for a future entrance into heaven. This misunderstanding was compounded by the fact that Kennedy also believed he could repair ("right my path") his innate sinful nature by the strength of his own will. The hope is that upon meeting with his maker, he did not seek to salvage any reward from either misconception.

Only God knows where Ted Kennedy will spend eternity. But to entreat -- nay demand -- that God judge us by our own merit is in effect to decline his more than sufficient provision which grants complete absolution for our sins. If Kennedy's first instinct when asking the Pope to intercede for him was to catalog his personal accomplishments, it's safe to say he was ill prepared to face the final judge of all.

God is not impressed by our service, nor can it earn us entrance into heaven; not according to the scriptures that Kennedy claimed to believe in, and with which, as a Catholic, he should have been better acquainted. One simply may not ask God to weigh our good works against our indiscretions. But we are more than qualified to fall in our faces before him and receive the mercy he has already promised, if we are willing to accept it.