May. 1 at 3:11am
We are more or less used to the inequality we have to deal with in everyday life: some of us are more intelligent, talented, wealthy, healthy and lucky than others, while others are badly off in all respects. We don’t need to see this as a sign of God’s favor or neglect; lack of health, of opportunities, of money, intelligence and talents can be explained as the consequences of original sin, of “sinful social structures” which John Paul II spoke about, different genetic pools or just as plain bad luck. The wealthy are not particularly good nor are the suffering particularly evil; good and evil cut across all classes and professions. God lets the sun shine on the good and the bad equally in this life (and I won’t go into the well-known point here that doing the good is already rewarding while committing evil carries its own punishment).
However, people endowed with certain talents are often considered favored by God; Joseph in the Old Testament is a thorn in the side of his brothers because they perceive him as being God’s (and their father’s) favorite. It takes a conversion process on their side and much suffering on Joseph’s for them to repent of their attempted murder. Yet his talents, as becomes clear, have been given to him so that he may serve his family and the wider community. He is able to prepare Egypt for a terrible famine, and save many people in and outside the country. Hence having more talents doesn’t mean being favored over and against others, but means that more will be asked from oneself. People like Joseph have been given to the world so that more people may be helped; thus his talents express God’s love for the weaker as well as for him.
While many inequalities, however, (for example, bad health) seem often unjust and part of this valley of tears, the inequality we will experience in the next life will be perfectly just. While each individual is God’s favorite soul, as Gabrielle Bossis, the author of the famous collection He and I wrote, and while God loves each soul infinitely, we respond to this love to different degrees; some of us will become holier than others, and the hierarchical order in Heaven will reflect this. Since it will be an order of love rather than of power, there will be no cause for envy or resentment. Each one will be perfectly happy and absolutely fulfilled, basking in the complete love of the Trinity. We will all rejoice in the justice and mercy which brought us together and ordered us to fill this particular spot in Heaven, which has many abodes.
That this is not necessarily an easy attitude to reach in this life is made clear in that even the apostles argue who the greatest among them is; the mother of James and John isn’t any better, since she wants her sons to sit on Christ’s right and left in his glory. This all too human view of God’s kingdom is something we easily slip into, and which takes some purification to leave behind. Less easy to understand is Christ’s famous parable of the workers of the last hour. Doesn’t it seem supremely unjust that the last ones, those who hardly had time to accumulate merit or put their love for God to the test will be just as much rewarded as those who’ve served the Lord through many toils in their lives? Doesn’t justice require a just remuneration which will reflect the different degrees of service rendered to God by human beings? But the first workers are not given less than they were promised; they only started to grumble once the last ones were given as much as they were. This reminds one of the older son’s resentment in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who (wrongly) feels less loved by his Father. But the question remains why God doesn’t give the first workers more than the last ones - because He can only give Himself, and He does so completely and unconditionally. It doesn’t depend on God, but on the receiver, on how much he is capable and willing to receive. Those who are the losers in this life often seem more capable of receiving that love than those tempted by self-righteousness. But being in a state of absolute misery is no ticket to Heaven either. The good thief shows us the way, while the bad thief cannot accept Christ’s mercy.
But what about the injustices in this life, when God seems to be taking direct action in favor of some, but not of others? Some people are saved providentially and, it seems, miraculously by God, for example Dietrich von Hildebrand or the Polish resistance fighter, Ian Karsky, while millions were sent to the slaughterhouses in Auschwitz et al. More recently, Immaculée Illibagizza comes to mind who survived the Rwandan genocide. When she came to give a talk at Villanova University some years ago, some people reacted negatively. They asked: “What about the others (whom God hadn’t saved)?” It seemed unjust and unloving that God had allowed so many others to be butchered while protecting Immaculée; hence they preferred to think that God had not saved her in the first place. This raises the question why God grants a miraculous cure to some people - coming to Lourdes, for example - but not to others. Why does this young child die of cancer though everybody has been praying for its healing, while this elderly man is miraculously healed of a life-threatening disease? Isn’t God showing favoritism for some and not for others?
If all we had was the here and now, then indeed it would be supremely unjust that some get cured and others don’t. But since this isn’t the case and we know that God wants what is best for us, then it comes down to a question of faith and hope (and also love). We don’t have the full picture; it seems like an unmitigated tragedy that some people die when they die, but since we don’t know what this means from the perspective of eternity, what good God works in their lives and that of their families, and what this means for their afterlife, we cannot pass a final judgment on this event. It is particularly difficult to accept this when one is in the midst of a tragedy oneself; then these promises may seem very distant. Even the French writer and convert, André Frossard, who had experienced the width and breath of God’s love in a mystical encounter, had to struggle, when he lost two of his children. He knew through his mystical experience that God was infinite Love, and yet it was hard for him to accept His severe mercy in these circumstances: “I lived with this sword piercing my heart, all the while knowing that God is love”, and he ends his famous conversion story, God Exists: I Have Met Him, with the beautiful lines “Love, to speak of you, eternity itself will be too brief.”
 Transl. Marjorie Villiers, New York: Herder and Herder, 1971, p. 125.