I really didn’t plan on writing about Senator Kennedy on my blog, but the events of his final days and his death just have too many lessons for us all.
It has come out that Senator Kennedy, shortly before his death, wrote a private letter to Pope Benedict. In it, he asks for the pontiff’s prayers:
I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our Church and inspire our world during these challenging times. I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and although I continue treatment the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old, and preparing for the next passage of life.
As this was a private letter, I think there is no reason to assume that this was anything other than a sincere desire for prayers on the Senator’s part. However, the letter also contains some odd self-justification:
I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination, and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty, and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and been the focus of my work as a United States Senator.
When I read that part, do you know what it reminded me of? My own confessions before God. How often do I go to God in prayer saying, “Lord, forgive me for my impatience with my family. You know how much I sacrifice for them and give up my own desires for them, so please help me be more patient.” I will even justify myself in sacramental confession: “Father, I got angry at my children, because they were really being uncontrollable and disobedient.”
How often do we justify ourselves before God, even when we are trying to be humble and contrite before Him? We so often are unwilling to allow anyone else to justify their actions, yet we are quick to justify our own. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?