Tag Archives: original sin

The Immaculate Conception

Some question why Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has such a big place in the faith of  our church. The words of the angel in Luke’s gospel, words we often repeat in prayer, offer an answer: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Mary is full of grace, gifted by God with unique spiritual gifts from her conception, because she was to be the mother of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

She would be the “resting place of the Trinity,” and would give birth to, nourish, guide and accompany Jesus in his life and mission in this world. To fulfill that unique role she needed a unique gift. She would be free from original sin that clouds human understanding and slows the way we believe in God and his plan for us.

“How slow you are to believe” Jesus said to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus made that complaint repeatedly as he preached the coming of God’s kingdom. “How slow you are to believe!” “What little faith you have!” “Do you still not understand!” That human slowness to believe didn’t end in gospel times. We have it too.

Mary was freed from that slowness to believe. “Be it done to me according to your word,” she immediately says to the angel. Yet, her acceptance of God’s will does not mean she understood everything that happened to her. “How can this be?” she asks the angel about the conception of the child. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”  But the angel’s answer seems so incomplete, so mysterious.

Surely, Mary would have liked to know more when the angel leaves her, never to return. There’s no daily message, no new briefing or renewed assurance by heavenly messengers. The years go by in Nazareth as the Child grows in wisdom and age and grace, but they’re years of silence. Like the rest of us, Mary waits and wonders and keeps these things in her heart.

That’s why we welcome her as a believer walking with us. She is an assuring presence. She calls us to believe as she did, without knowing all. She does not pretend to be an expert with all the answers. She has no special secrets known to her alone. “Do whatever he tells you,” is her likely advice as we ponder the mysteries of her Son.

 

What’s Inside?

                                                                         

    In Wednesday’s Gospel reading (Mk 7: 14-23), our Lord states: ” Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

    Later on, He tells His disciples: ” Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine (thus He declared all foods clean). But what comes out of the man, is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

    Our Lord is once again talking about the pettiness and superficiality of so many of the rules and regulations that the scribes and Pharisees were always harping on. He asks us to focus rather on that “beam” in our eyes, the sinful, destructive tendencies that exist within us, and that we try to cover up.

    But this passage leads me to ask so many questions. In many of the Psychology courses that I took, the issue of ” nature vs. nurture” would come up, and makes me think of this Gospel. So many disturbing, horrible things can ” enter from the outside ” and damage or ” defile ” a child so that he or she grows up and displays many of these sinful behaviors listed by the Lord. Do we learn these evils, or did they already come within us at birth? How extensive is the power of our “original sin?”  Why do some people turn out ” nicer” than others?

    No matter what the answers to these questions, our Lord certainly wants people to be cleansed of ” all their evils” . Can we do it by following a set of rules and prescribed behaviors that our Church so lovingly provides? ….. Follow the Commandments, participate in the Eucharist, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation,  fast, avoid the sinful influence of the media for us and our children, control our “dirty language” and “dirty pictures” in our minds, practice tolerance and forgiveness, and so on?

    Many, many people, like me, who received Catholic upbringing and instruction when young, failed to follow these rules. Others, by the Grace of God, gave these rules a good try and are still trying. Why? Was it God’s arbitrary choice?

    I really cannot answer these questions either. All I know is that after 43 years in the wilderness, after hurting God, myself, and others so many times, my Lord Jesus Christ came my way and struck me with his Love and Mercy. The gift of His Light helped me to see His Light in me, along with the many dark, dirty spots that would cloud my vision of Him.

    So I no longer try to analyze what harmful events in my life led me to so much sin, nor how my “inside”  got filled with so much darkness (although I try to spot those bad influences when they threaten my grandchildren, and carefully talk about it with their parents!). All I know is that God loves me so much, that I can’t help but try to be”better”, because I love Him. There is this beautiful sentence that I read in the magazine THE WORD AMONG US: ” It’s the relationship, not the formula that matters.”

    In his book, FALLING UPWARD, Fr Richard Rohr, talks about the importance of “shadow work” in the spiritual journey. It is a matter of careful ” seeing through ” our self-deception, as well as through all of those inner things that “defile” us: ” You come to expect various forms of halfheartedness, deceit, vanity, or illusions from yourself. But now you see through them, which destroys most of their game and power.” What are you looking at as you see through them? Rohr believes that you are looking into your innermost self at  the One who loves you.

   ” This self cannot die and always lives, and is your True Self.”

Orlando Hernandez   

Friday Thoughts: The Best Coinage The World Has Ever Known

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You can run but you can’t hide. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

What a world it would be if we only spoke in clichés.

Is it the kind of world you and I live in?

Do we retreat into beaten-down meadows, like deer who lay where others have already flattened the grass?

There’s less work I suppose. And the grass may still be warm.

But it’s also kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

You can enter a home that isn’t yours, you can search for a bed that fits just right, but at the end of the day your cover will be blown.

You can run but you can’t hide.

After all, you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.

Perhaps it is such lying that is really the apple.

For picking fruit from someone else’s tree has never been a good idea.

Those kind of apples certainly keep the good doctor away.

But I guess we also have to be careful to not overcorrect.

We must not out of pride be unwilling to enter where others have already been.

No, that is wisdom. We should go where others have gone before. It just depends on who they were and where they went.

And no matter what, we shouldn’t hide within those spaces, pretend that they are our own, and perhaps worst of all, act as if we are the first to ever have entered—delusion of this kind leads us to the belief that we create anything at all.

We don’t.

Think of Adam in the Garden. God is busy whipping up the entire universe from out of nothing. Creating and sculpting, adding and adapting, breathing life into His new world. And Adam, well, he’s one of the building blocks. Yes, certainly a favorite. A favorite that God does not want to be alone.

And something spectacular takes place:

The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals… (Genesis 18-20)

God created, Adam named.

It is simply amazing. And humbling.

What an honor. And what a clear indicator of who is truly in charge.

We create nothing. That’s the bad news for those who want to be God.

We do though participate in the ongoing unfolding of God’s perfect and eternal world. We even seem to share the leading role. That’s the Good News for those who believe.

For our work is not to create. We simply cant. Only God can. And even if we “build” with what is already in existence, if we seemingly “create” something “new” with the building blocks we find already laying around, that “pseudo-creation” still isn’t our primary job.

Then what is?

Well, the original disciples of Jesus had a similar wonder:

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:28-29)

And there’s the crux of it, if you will.

Adam, we must remember, when in the supremely honorable position of naming God’s creatures was still naked, and he felt “no shame.” He hadn’t yet eaten what wasn’t his. He was not yet hiding “among the trees of the garden.” He still believed in the One Who Sends.

Adam was faithful. Adam was original. Adam knew he was God’s creation. And Adam was free to roam.

But Adam used his freedom to choose to become a slave.

Adam’s fall was a fall into self. A fall into creation, the creation of a great lie, that man creates on the same level as God.

It was a great fall. So steep was the cliff off which he went that no other story could ever bring more meaning to the most hackneyed line: “Once upon a time…”

Adam’s fall is a fall into denomination.

A fall into the church of self.

A fall into complete and utter cliché.

And it brought death to the great privilege of cooperating with God, of naming and stewarding on His behalf His created world.

But thanks be to God.

For someone truly original, and creative, finally came round.

He put the apple back up upon the tree and told the snake to take a hike.

His name is Jesus.

He is also called The Son of Man.

But of course we are free to just call Him God.

For about Jesus, nothing is cliché.

It is very clear, there’s absolutely no running or hiding when it comes to the Cross.

And when it comes to His love for us, there’s no apple that can keep the Divine Physician away.


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—Howard Hain

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