Monday, December 17, 2012

Am I Evil?

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gn 1:31) 
No, I am not evil, nor is any man.  God made each of us, our bodies, as he planned for since the beginning of time:  Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.  Before you were born, I set you apart for my holy purpose. (Jer 1:5)  But God also made the spiritual side of us.  He came into our hearts, and our wills became as one.  And He created us to be this way forever.
But we discovered that wasn’t what we wanted.
Very early on, when man became aware of himself, he became enamored of himself.  While made in God’s image only, he was not a clone of God any more than a child is a clone of his parents.  Any child can choose to be and do differently than he was taught.  Raised by the most kind, loving parents who desire only happiness for him, still, he can choose to do not as they wish (the good things they wish), but he can choose to do evil.
That’s what Adam did in the Garden of Eden.  He knew most intimately God’s will for him and God’s love for him, still he chose to do his own will.  Putting God’s will aside, Adam acted as if he loved himself, desired good for himself, more than God did.  In his heart he said: “I know what is good for me, as no one else can.  I know the truth of my being and of ways to make myself happy.  And I want to do those things.”  And so he chose evil, putting his will over God’s will, his self-love over God’s perfect love.
In many ways history is repeating itself today.  Living in a land of so many blessings (even as Adam was in the Garden), we are saying: “But I want more for myself.”  And while God rejected Adam’s self-love and took the good of the Garden of Eden away from him, today we celebrate our self-love.  “There is no truth; the truth is as every man sees it, and who are you to deny him what he wants?”  “Everyone is different and wants different things --- celebrate our diversity!”  “Every man has the right to pursue HIS happiness; who are you to tell him he is wrong?”  “Who is the Church to tell a man that he has sinned?  If he follows his heart, it is no sin.”
Donne once said “No man is an island,” but our culture says “every man is a king,” and should expect to be treated like one.  We all think we are so important and, in error, we extend that to thinking what we want is important.  And we want EVERYTHING.  Adam wasn’t satisfied with “only” the Garden of Eden.  He wanted heaven --- now.  So do we.
And look where, as a nation, celebrating each man’s diversity has gotten us.  One man can say: “I was driving across the desert and saw a cross on public land that I didn’t like.  So it must come down.”  And many judges agreed his “right” was violated because of something he chose not to like --- heaven would give him anything he wants, and so must we.  Another man wants to help the poor by taking from the rich, and he doesn’t understand how others could be so hateful as to not allow him to do what he wants.  “Commandments about not stealing?--those are God’s commandments, not mine.  For me, mine are more important --- and who are you to dare to say I am wrong in my thinking?”
It’s Adam’s choice being repeated over and over again.  “I know what’s best for me, more than God does.”
This morning at mass the genealogy of Jesus was read from the Gospel of Matthew.  From Abraham on down, father begat son, over and over, until Jesus came.  But the Gospel only told what people could see, for the actual father of Jesus was God himself.  God begat Jesus, and Jesus, unlike other men wasn’t just born in the image of God; He was God.  This I firmly believe.  And he came to earth to re-start mankind.
Unlike the first Adam, He didn’t seek to do His own will, but rather the will of His heavenly Father.  He came to give man a lesson on how to live, how to be who he was created to be.  No man is created evil; every man is created good.  But like a child borne of his father, every child can choose to be not like his father.  Not looking physically like their father, many children think they can (and even should) be different spiritually than their father.  They think they can choose their happiness, unaware that they were made for happiness --- and all they can really choose is to not accept it, in their hearts.
Jesus showed man how to live in true freedom, choosing to be who he was made to be, choosing the ultimate happiness (heaven) he was made for.  Jesus showed us that all we must do is as he did, and say to our heavenly Father: “Not my will but Thy will be done.”
Many people today are choosing to do their own will and finding their own happiness.  One thinks he will be happier if he takes down a cross in the desert, --- and another if he kills a room full of children.  “Who are you to tell him he is wrong?”  The young shooter is no different than the man who wants the cross down, or the rapist, or any other sinner.  They just choose to do evil --- and, thankfully, in some cases we still have enough of God’s grace in us to recognize that is what it is. 
Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke on our freedom, God’s will, and ours:
 Only in relation to God does man come to understand also the meaning of human freedom. It is the task of education to form people in authentic freedom. This is not the absence of constraint or the supremacy of free will, it is not the absolutism of the self. When man believes himself to be absolute, to depend on nothing and no one, to be able to do anything he wants, he ends up contradicting the truth of his own being and forfeiting his freedom. On the contrary, man is a relational being, who lives in relationship with others and especially with God. Authentic freedom can never be attained independently of God.
Freedom is a precious value, but a fragile one; it can be misunderstood and misused. “Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own self. With such a relativistic horizon, therefore, real education is not possible without the light of the truth; sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common”(4).

In order to exercise his freedom, then, man must move beyond the relativistic horizon and come to know the truth about himself and the truth about good and evil. Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey. Its voice calls him to love and to do what is good, to avoid evil and to take responsibility for the good he does and the evil he commits(5).  (Benedict XXI’s World Day of Peace Message:

Even our President Obama had some profound words to say on the school shooting:  “These tragedies must end.  And for them to end we must change.”  For once, I totally agree with his words, but probably not his intent.  Pursuing his intent, I expect him to enact rules and regulations to enforce how HE chooses to view what is right --- perhaps gun control laws, or maybe a soldier in each school room.  He’ll choose to make happen HIS will, because he can. 

But that’s what the shooter did.

Yes, for tragedies to end we must change.  But that’s what Jesus said 2000 years ago, and He showed us how.  Unfortunately many of us never got past the thinking of Adam and “I want it, and I want it now.” 

We are not evil, but we need to change from our evil choices.  For a start, we can ask God: “What is Your will for me?”  And we can read and try to understand the example of Jesus.  His example was one of love, which started with God and neighbor, not Himself.
Thinking and seeing all these reactions to the shootings of the children, I was led to recall another shooting of children which took place a few years ago, in a little Amish town, in Pennsylvania I believe.  There, innocent children were also killed in a school, and their parents and loved ones then gathered together to grieve and pray.  There were no loud shouts then about “someone needs to stop this evil.”  Rather there, in the small church, their first prayers were for the shooter.  I think those people understood in their hearts Jesus’ example about loving neighbor first, and of accepting God’s will --- even if they could not understand it.  And they knew that if that example of Jesus were followed, there would be no more shootings.  They knew what was needed was change of heart, not of laws. 

And they prayed.

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