Life From the Perspective of Eternity: An Interview With Cardinal Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri

Cross Catholic Outreach recently sat down with Cardinal Ramazzini, Bishop of Huehuetenango in Guatemala, for an interview. Here is a portion of what he had to say.

Cardinal Ramazzini: If there is something that I could tell you, it is that I have found in many poor communities in Guatemala a great sense of solidarity. Solidarity towards others who are poorer than them. Jesus said, “It is better to give than to receive.” That means that the dynamics of the Christian spirit should always be to forget myself, to think of others. When I do this, I must do it not to take advantage of others or to be liked by others but to truly seek the good and the well-being of others. The most important commandment is to love God and love your neighbor. When I live in this dynamic of forgetting myself because I want to live the love of God by loving others, because I can’t see God but I can see my neighbor, the result is the presence of one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our life. And one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our life is joy, a deep joy that comes from knowing that I am on the path that God wants for all humanity.

Many of the tragedies, sadness or anguish on Earth are simply the result of the lack of love between us. The most important commandment, as Jesus said, is to love God above all things, not for money, power or pleasure, but to love God. Just as Jesus made it known to us, we are also to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is the golden rule of Christianity. If we live according to that golden rule, we realize that we can be happy, even if we are poor. Not for nothing did Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, and blessed are the poor, for there is the kingdom of heaven.” This means that having the practice of the Beatitudes before us should remain a source of joy because when I practice this, I am saying I love God and love my neighbor. So, that is where I see the relationship that you pointed out.

Love must always be directed towards those who need it most, and those who need it most are, in the words of Pope Francis and the Bishops in Aparecida, those who are disposable, forgotten, excluded, those who we do not even know exist. Our actions of love should be directed towards them. When we live in that way, we will find a very special joy in our hearts.

I think that one of the very serious consequences of being economically or materially rich is exactly what happened in the Gospel of St. Luke in the parable of the rich man and the poor. The rich man, according to the Gospel of St. Luke, enjoyed a banquet every day, dressed splendidly, was always in parties, and had not realized that at the door of his house there was a poor, sick man with wounds all over his body. The Gospel of Luke says that even the dogs approached him to lick his wounds. The rich man had not realized that this poor man was there, hungry. The rich man didn’t even give him the crumbs that fell from the table. That explains what the word of Jesus means when it says you cannot serve God and money at the same time. If you turn money into your God, then you will forget the true God, who is the God revealed by Jesus. That is why I believe that wealth can be an obstacle.

When Jesus talks about the way to reach eternal life, he mentions that it is a very narrow path. Unfortunately, when people forget the transcendence of life, because life ends here but starts over there, they become indifferent and selfish. I consider finding that sense of life, of truly forgetting about myself to share what I have with others who have less, can give anyone an incredible feeling of personal fulfillment. What I think is not just a matter of saying it; anyone can say it. But what I truly want is for you to experience it. This is for those of you who are watching and listening to me; make this an experience in your life. You will find out that it is always a lot better to give than to receive. You will also realize that we are all pilgrims in this land, and what we really need is to prepare ourselves for our definitive encounter with God. When this happens, everything will become relative. Money will be relative. Fame will be relative. Power will be relative. Everything will be relative because, as you realize, as Saint Augustine says, God made us for him, and our hearts will be restless until we rest in him.

That is why my exhortation is to not forget that it is always better to give than to receive and that, in most cases, this can be an approach from the point of view of charity. If I want to do works of mercy, I give alms, I give a contribution, I provide support, and that is wonderful. The word of God also teaches that those who give alms are fulfilling one of Jesus’ mandates, but there is also another way of understanding things, and that is from the point of justice. I believe that Christians should not just think that they are only called to share what they have because there are others who are poorer. They should also do it because it is a duty of justice to be able to help others who haven’t had the same opportunities that others with more resources have had in their lives.

That passage from the Old Testament when the manna fell from heaven has always been very significant to me because that manna from heaven was the food for all the Israelites in the desert. Nobody needed more manna, and nobody had leftovers. I believe that is ideal. The ideal will always be to understand that, although I might have a lot, God will hold me accountable for the way I lived my life, but I can start now to find a sense of personal fulfillment by sharing what I have. That is why I repeat the words of Jesus: Giving will always bring more happiness than receiving.

I urge the people who support the projects from Cross Catholic Outreach to be generous, knowing that one day, when you present yourself before God, he is not going to ask you how much money you made, how much money you were able to accumulate or how many bank accounts you had. He will ask you, “Did you feed the hungry? Did you give water to the thirsty? Did you visit the sick and those in prison? Did you support and take care of the migrants?” Those will be the words of the final judgment. We must understand life from the perspective of eternity. We are pilgrims here on Earth, and we are walking on this journey. There will come a moment when we see God face-to-face, and we will see our lives as they were.