Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where Are You?

It was foretold that the struggle between humanity and the serpent, that is, between man and the forces of evil and death, would continue throughout history. It was also foretold, however, that the "offspring" of a woman would one day triumph and would crush the head of the serpent to death; it was foretold that the offspring of the woman — and in this offspring the woman and the mother herself — would be victorious and that thus, through man, God would triumph.
If we set ourselves with the believing and praying Church to listen to this text, then we can begin to understand what original sin, inherited sin, is and also what the protection against this inherited sin is, what redemption is. What picture does this passage show us?
The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that in the end, God takes something ways from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom.
The human being lives in the suspicion that God's love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself. Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God.
He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God's level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him.
Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trust in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.
Homily, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2005
Reflection – We see in this part of the homily the ‘bad news,’ the trouble, the problem. The whole central problem of humanity which underlies everything else that goes wrong with us, with our lives, with our world.
Namely, ‘the human being does not trust God.’ We look on God as someone we have to be careful around, have to guard ourselves against, have to not get to close to, lest we lose something. That’s it, really, the central lie that God takes something away from us. That He diminishes our life, somehow. That’s what the serpent said to Eve, that’s why she took the fruit, why she and Adam chose the path they chose. The underlying historical reality of this original sin is immaterial; what matters is that at some point humanity decided there was a better path available than dependence on and obedience to God. We had a better idea.
And so enters sin, violence, exploitation, misery, poverty, sickness, and death. Yep, this is the ‘bad news’ part of the equation. “He trusts in deceit rather than in truth, and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.”
Of course God is not undone by this. “Where are you,” is the great cry of God to humanity in rebellion, in hiding. And the strange mystery we will celebrate a mere two weeks from now is that God not only asks us this, but comes to be with us. God comes and hides behind those bushes with us, in a matter of speaking, joins us in our pitiable condition, and so changes it.
And Mary is the one who is the solitary silent witness to this mystery, and who herself never hid from Him, and so could give him the gift of her flesh. Was she diminished? Did she lose out from this choice? This is the key question she holds out for humanity, the key challenge to our central human decision. ‘Where are you?” God asks us. “Where are you?” we could well ask Mary. And she could well say what Jesus said to his disciples: “Come and see.” Bad news? Good news? Our choice.

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