Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sometimes Timing is Everything

Sometimes Timing is Everything

After Mass at St. Joseph's parish in New Hampshire, I experienced that sudden influx of information and understanding that the Lord sometimes graciously gives to us while our minds and spirits are calm and quiet in His presence. I don't claim to be an expert on this particular subject, but I believe there is something fundamentally important and useful in the story I'm about to relay, and so, here it is…..

As I was praying in front of a tabernacle after Mass, I noticed the intricate design of a tree covering its front. The Lord used the image of the tree to remind me about our first parents and, subsequently, our grave responsibility as parents to our own children.

The image of the tree on the tabernacle obviously brought to mind the tree of life but it also made me consider the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden. My mind's eye could almost "see" Adam and Eve in the garden: sinless, innocent. And yet, something was not yet complete about them. While they appeared to be fully formed, a "finished product", they were not yet entirely so. I recognized that at least three things were still a work "in progress"; things that God intended to form over time and through the experience of living: their wills, knowledge and understanding.

In his eternal hatred of God, Satan perceived Adam and Eve's temporary vulnerability and shrewdly plotted to wound God in the most despicable way possible while he had the chance: by killing His children. Satan knew firsthand what it meant to be cut off from God through the sin of pride and disobedience and in his vileness he decided to spread the deadly virus to God's children before their "immune system" was powerful enough to easily fight it off.

When Adam and Eve abused their free wills by choosing to believe Satan's lie that God had purposely withheld something good from them to their detriment, they were wounded in at least three initial ways that would subsequently lead to the evil, suffering and disorder all humans experience in the world.

First, their immature wills were damaged and predisposed toward future disobedience. Disobedience is not something that one "gets out of one's system" by trying it. It is more akin to an addiction, whereby one is drawn more and more deeply into its deadly grasp. One may eventually escape it, but only with great difficulty and the grace of God. This wound to the will, this infection, has been spread from our first parents on throughout all generations of man and is called "original sin", and its symptom is called "concupiscence", the tendency to continue to sin.
Second, man was doomed to live life dealing with the terrible consequences of possessing little understanding and wisdom while simultaneously possessing an abundance of knowledge.

Scripture is filled with examples and warnings regarding the severe consequences of such a gross imbalance. Decoupled from sufficient understanding and wisdom, knowledge leads to arrogance, to pride. And we all know where pride leads. Such "knowledge", of course, is foolishness in reality.

Third, a seed of distrust of God took root in man. By accepting Satan's lie and then acting upon it rather than resisting and rejecting it, this seed of distrust toward God was sown deeply in the soul of man. We doubted His unconditional love for us. We no longer trusted Him.

While there was obviously nothing evil about the tree of knowledge itself because God, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived, made it, something as potentially "good" as knowledge became an agent of evil because it was gained too early and in the wrong way.

Does this sound familiar to you in today's world? My mind immediately jumped to modern man's obsession with teaching "sex education" at earlier and earlier ages. When we allow our children to be exposed to such information before they are prepared, before they are sufficiently mature, we cause an injurious imbalance to exist that will have ramifications for the rest of their lives. This is true even if the information presented is essentially "true". How much more damage is done, then, by allowing such powerful information to be framed and presented by those who have neither wisdom nor understanding themselves? Furthermore, just as in the garden of Eden, it can foster distrust of one's parents. Why didn't Mom and Dad tell me all this? What else are they hiding from me that I should know? And if parents give in and teach what most of modern society would have us teach and when they would have us teach it, we directly wound our children ourselves, even if our children may not perceive it. How in the world were we ever convinced that this was a good idea?

Well, it would seem we can blame this blindness on our first parents. And we can also thank the Father of Lies, of course. He really doesn't have that many tricks, but they are certainly good ones, and he doesn't hesitate to use them over and over. He knows that we are innately susceptible to such deception. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The good news, of course, is that we have a Father who immediately put into place a perfect plan to heal our wounds, strengthen us and to restore our relationship with Him. That perfect plan has a Name: Jesus Christ.

By His perfect love, Christ transcended the curse man was powerless to escape by himself. His unblemished sacrifice both satisfied the infinite demands of God's perfect righteousness and justice and also merited a superabundance of grace for us all that we may be transformed into children of God in and through Christ. And by his wounds, by meekly accepting the most cruel and unjust punishment for our sakes, sweet and mild Jesus even healed the painful, vile wound a child ought never suffer: doubt about the unconditional and complete love of its father.

Miraculously, marvelously, God took Satan's maniacal but pathetically predictable and perpetual drive to destroy man and made use of it as a tool in Christ's hands, to test, fully form and strengthen the very target Satan attacked: man's will. With Christ's grace, if we resist our weakened, confused flesh and the evil urgings of the Adversary, our wills become stronger, more and more perfectly aligned with the will of God. Eventually, our free wills become so strong that we become trustworthy, like our Father. When we meet Him after our death, He will look upon us and be able to recognize us as His own: "Welcome home my child!" And what a homecoming it will be!

To begin the journey home, all God asks is that we make a small positive act of the will: simply say "yes" to Him. And yet even here He provides the grace, the power to perform the task if we only will agree to it. Give Him permission to save you and then cooperate with the rescue, don't resist. Just keep saying, "yes", don't be afraid. He has proven that He is trustworthy.

We must all pray for the ability to clearly discern the attacks of Satan. While his particular approaches may vary somewhat, they all have one thing in common: a vile, execrable desire to completely destroy our relationship with God. Mother Mary, pray for us. St. Michael, protect us. Holy Spirit, teach us.

Michael Forrest