I am a Catholic from Europe and recently heard a Muslim friend say that our earthly life would be a test before God. With this argument he explained the sense of fasting, giving alms, etc.
I have to say that I am very fascinated by this view of life as a test before God. Is there Catholic teaching on this point of view and if so what does it say?
2837 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man,152 and temptation, which leads to sin and death.153 …
152 Cf. Lk 8:13-15; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Tim 3:12.
153 Cf. Jas 1:14-15.
1264 … since concupiscence "is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ."66 Indeed, "an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules."67
I would look upon life not as a test but as an opportunity. The Gospel reading in tomorrow’s Sunday Mass is a parable about preparation and being ready. Our earthly life is the time to make ourselves ready for heavenly life.
It’s an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God, for example, by regularly praying, fasting, learning about our faith, participating in the sacraments, following the commandments, and so on. It’s an opportunity to love others. Almsgiving is one way, and there are other corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Most of all, we should cultivate love in our hearts and in our whole lives – love God and love one another.
Yes it’s a test. The bible exhorts us to choose good over evil, life over death, holiness and perfection over sin, God over no God. Adam chose the “no God” option, becoming his own “god” as he preferred himself to God (CCC 398). We’re here to learn how wrong Adam was, how much we need God, to place Him first above all the other attractions that seek our love and devotion. This is a matter of justice, of the right order of things for man; creation must be subjugated to God and man was made for communion with God but we can reject God as our God by the abuse of free will.
Obedience and subjugation come only as we gain knowledge of the true God, the God whom Jesus came to finally, fully reveal when the time was ripe. As we accept this revelation we come to know Him and so begin to believe and hope/trust in Him and, most importantly, to love Him. To know Him is to love Him. "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3
And as we come to know and love God, ultimately loving Him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves, then our justice or righteousness is complete and our perfection and purpose would be attained and obedience would flow naturally, of its own accord. And this is why the Greatest Commandments are what they are. So the catechism teaches, regarding this struggle, a struggle of the will and proper use of our freedom:
1731 Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.
1732 As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil , and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.
It’s both a test and a journey, a good and worthwhile journey, the most important journey of our existence.
And yet don’t tests and chastisements often result in spiritual growth and growth in the virtues- and Scripture and the Church teach that suffering produces character? And aren’t we obligated to be righteous at the end of the day, to love God and neighbor as commanded, with the possibility of failing to do so? I understand what you’re saying but it still seems to me that both a carrot and stick are involved in the process-for our own good.
He doesn’t set conditions; we do; He allows us to to so, to reject His love IOW. And this is why salvation isn’t considered to be universal. Here’s a related condition:
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matt 6: 14-15
Ok, how about eternal life? Or is salvation universal then, with some scoring higher grades than others, perhaps, but all allowed in, with no criteria for admittance? I absolutely believe that the whole purpose of our exile from Eden into this school of life here on earth is for our formation, but that we still aren’t forced to learn anything here.
Yes, there is judgment. Thinking of tomorrow’s Gospel reading, this is our time to prepare, to make ourselves ready for that day. The foolish virgins failed to prepare, and were shut out of the marriage feast.
I understand the view that it is a test. I just look at it a little differently, as an opportunity that can be either taken or neglected.
When Jesus Christ says some of the children of the Kingdom will be thrown out and others will be brought in at the Wedding of the Groom does He refer solely to the birth of Church that would allow Nations as well as Jews to worship God? How about when the Pharisee who followed the rules was proven unworthy while the sinner filled with remorse was appreciated by the Son of God as worthy?
So the rules are not enough and sometimes honesty and sincere remorse (things one can’t control) are enough?
These situations above make me think life is not a test but actually the exact Instrument through which we move towards Heaven or Hell.
We however believe in the Heavenly Toll Houses, unlike the Catholic view of Purgatory in the Toll Houses I understand that one simply can’t move if one belongs to the Demon controlling the Toll House starting from our lifetime during which sin links us to the Demon. So during life we become this son of God or that slave to the Enemy. We just are on one side or another, we aren’t being tested who we are, and then given a grade, we directly enter one or another direction which we can change, through remorse and reconciliation with God through Christ.
If life was a test then when would be the preparation for the test? Because God would be unfair to test without preparation. But He is always fair so life can’t be a test because none of us is prepared.