ALICANTE, Spain, JULY 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The bishop of a popular vacation spot in Spain is encouraging vacationers to use the time of rest as a motivation to seek the Paradise promised to the good thief on the cross.
Bishop Rafael Palmero Ramos of the southern seaport city of Alicante made this invitation in a letter to vacationers visiting his diocese this summer.
"It is true that man's fulfillment as regards 'being happy and enjoying himself' is in heaven, but it is no less true that here also, on earth, we can perceive glimmers of that paradise, ever lost and always longed for," the bishop proposed.
The 74-year-old prelate said vacation is a time to "obtain what we need." The time of rest brings an experience of God's love, he suggested, and a chance to enjoy creation, "respecting it and being grateful for it."
It is a time for "inner peace and loving others," he continued, and a good time for the sacrament of reconciliation.
"In a word: trying to 'be happy, enjoying ourselves,' trusting in the Risen Christ and knowing that only friendship with him gives and guarantees us enjoyment and joy."
Referring to the promise of Paradise for the good thief, Bishop Palmero Ramos recalled that heaven is not a place, but a state in which God will be all in all. "Only then will we be content," he said, "only then we will be happy."
The prelate referenced Benedict XVI's recommendation in 2008 to use vacation as a time to read a saint's biography, though "every day of the year affords us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with our heavenly patrons."
The Pope said on that occasion that saints' "human and spiritual experience shows that holiness is not a luxury, it is not a privilege for the few, an impossible goal for an ordinary person; it is actually the common destiny of all men called to be children of God, the universal vocation of all the baptized. Holiness is offered to all; naturally, not all the Saints are equal: in fact, as I said, they are the spectrum of divine light. Moreover, a Saint who possesses extraordinary charisms is not necessarily a great Saint. Indeed, there are a great many whose names are known only to God, because on earth they led an apparently perfectly normal life."
Bishop Palmero Ramos urged remembering that "our paradise is not linked to a specific place, or a concrete time."
"It is not tied to vacations, nor does it consist of having many things within reach, nor is it attained by giving free rein to our passions," he said. "It is not the property of a few, and is not obtained by human effort alone. The New Testament reveals the last secret of this divine plan for man's happiness: Jesus Christ is our happiness, he is our Paradise."