The Virtues

Wisdom of Solomon 4:1

Better than this is childlessness with virtue,
for in the memory of virtue is immortality,
because it is known both by God and by men.

The apprehension of life after death was rather shaky in the Old Testament.  It is a relatively late development in pre-Christian Judaism to think the dead went to any place more definite than "sheol," the rather murky "abode of the dead."  Thus, we sometimes find in pre-Christian writings the general idea that virtue is the prelude, not to "eternal life," but to having your name live on in the hearts of others.  Some people, understandably focused on the supreme good of eternal life, tend to downplay the idea of a good reputation.  "Who cares if people remember me fondly?  I want to live forever!"  But being remembered fondly and eternal life are not opposites.  The saints are, among other things, those of "blessed memory."  And such memory is not known merely to men.  It also known to God.  To be remembered by God, to have your life and being cherished by Him who cherishes for all eternity: this is eternal life.  To be forgotten even by God: What could be more horrible?  It was because God desires to forget none of us that He came for our salvation and remembered us each by name.  It is because He knows us by name that He desires to make us participants in His life, not merely by "declaring us not guilty" but by making us truly virtuous.  Today, ask for grace and practice virtue.  You'll be remembered for it longer than you think!

Mark Shea

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Mark P. Shea is a Catholic author, blogger, and speaker.

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