A Distorted World Will Be Made Right

During the last few days the liturgy has taken us to the very beginning of creation, through the garden, and meeting Adam and Eve. So much happens in those first three chapters of the Bible. The maker of heaven and earth forms mankind in his image out of love and shows loving mercy after mankind’s disobedience, promising that things will be alright. Chapters 1-3 from the book of Genesis are short, but go back and read them slowly and prayerfully.

In today’s first reading Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, disobeying God and falling from grace. The serpent had asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” The woman answered that they could eat of any fruit in the garden except the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil because if they did eat of that fruit, or touch it, they would die. Now, I read Genesis many times and each time I read it I kept overlooking what Eve had said, that they could not eat the fruit or even touch the fruit, lest they die. Who told Eve this?! That wasn’t the original instruction that God gave to Adam in Gen 2:17! No where did God say that touching the fruit would kill them. Clearly there was some miscommunication going on between Adam and Eve. The serpent took advantage of this miscommunication by enticing Eve telling her that certainly she wouldn’t die by touching the fruit. The serpent deceived her into thinking that God didn’t love her. And having the fruit in her hand, touching it and not having died, doubt began to grow.

How could this happen after all the good things that God had given them? How could Eve doubt God’s love after He had created a beautiful paradise for them and given them literally everything in the world? How could Adam stand by and not say anything? All God created was good. The serpent came along and distorted everything that was good, casting doubt in the true love of God. That’s what the evil one does, he takes things that are good that the Father has given us and bends, twists, and deforms it. Suddenly this thing that was originally created to be good is now bad.

Finding pleasure in the taste of food may be distorted to having an eating disorder. Having a causal beer with friends may be distorted to build up into a drinking problem. Enjoying the company of another person may be distorted towards the path of promiscuity. Now I want to make clear that food, drink, and sex are not bad things. God created things that are good and only good. But, the serpent stands nearby and cunningly asks us, is that thing that you’re holding really bad? Then we start looking at those things that were once good as a means to an end in themselves. We start to doubt that God ever loved us and now we focus and try to find happiness in food, drink, and sex. Not realizing that our happiness is by God’s side.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus healed a deaf and mute man by looking up into the heavens and saying Ephphatha! Be opened! Let us ask Jesus to heal our ears and open up our hearts so that we may better listen and follow the Lord, our God. Pray for strength in fighting against the tactics of the evil one. God created all things good and by remembering in God’s merciful love we will be free from doubt and not be silent in times of need (as Adam was when he needed to speak up). Guided by the Holy Spirit may we listen to God, speak His good name, and show His love to others.

We live in a distorted world, but God promises that a distorted world will be made right because He made it to be good.

Image Credit: Adam and Eve by Jacob Jordaens [Public Domain]

Coming to Life

If you consider that God is righteous,
you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness
is begotten by him.
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
—1 John 2:29–3:1

I’ve been watching a lot of C.S. Lewis Doodle on YouTube lately—if you have not yet experienced these videos, I highly recommend them. In particular, I’d been watching the video Making and Begetting, and today’s first reading brought it to mind. The video illustrates the following passage from Lewis’s book Mere Christianity:

We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of; to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers, and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.

Given this description of making vs. begetting, I thought it odd that John specifically uses the word “begotten” in describing our relationship to God. Jesus is begotten by God, but we are not begotten in the same way that Jesus is. We are His creation, made in His image and likeness but distinct from Christ in that we are not actually God ourselves. What, then, is John’s meaning when he says that “everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him”? How could we possibly be begotten? As I reflected upon this phrasing, I recalled Lewis’s eventual conclusion to the chapter:

In reality, the difference between biological life and spiritual life is so important that I’m going to give them two distinct names. The biological sort, which comes to us through nature and which, like everything else in nature, is always tending to run down and decay, so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from nature in the form of air, water, food, etc., is bios. The spiritual life, which is in God from all eternity and which made the whole natural universe, is zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to zoe, but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue and a man. A man who changed from having bios to having zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.

And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is like a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going around that some of us are some day going to come to life.

We are created by God, not begotten; we are like statues made in His image. But God desires to elevate us beyond our natural capacity. He is not held back by the laws of nature; He can give us life that transcends all we know in this earthly plane. That we might be considered begotten by God seems impossible, yet nothing is impossible for God.

How does God initiate this radical transformation in us? He meets us in the sacraments, washing away the decay of sin through baptism and confession, fortifying our souls through the Eucharist. In our human condition, we are ever aware that life is a bittersweet experience—we recognize it as a great gift, but at the same time we ache for something more, something that will not wither and fade away. God Himself has written this desire upon our hearts, and He intends to prepare us to receive life that is beyond our imagining. As we draw closer to Him, we become like statues that are beginning to blink and fidget around, suddenly aware of the life flickering within us.

In this new year, may we become ever more alive in the Lord, open our eyes to see the gifts He is giving us each day, and allow Him to transform us.