Thursday, April 16, 2009

Preparation for Adult Confirmation -- Class One

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)
Preparation for Adult Confirmation - Outline and Extended Notes

Class Outline for April 16, 2009

Introduction to Catechesis – “to make resound like an echo”

  • remembering the events of salvation history and making them known, so as to provoke an "echo" of the faith in the mind and in the heart of the listener, and thereby transform his or her life
I. Salvation History – the process of God calling Mankind back to Himself

A. The Lord God (CCC 26-50, 74-354)

1. Knowledge of God
  • reason and observation and natural revelation in the universe, the world, our bodies
  • Divine Revelation, the Living Word of God – (written) Sacred Scripture and (oral) Tradition
    • Revelation is God making it easier for us to know Him and know ourselves
    • inspired, guided, and protected by the Holy Spirit
    • interpret scripture as a whole, OT in light of NT and vice versa
    • assistance of Magisterium in interpreting Revelation
2. Faith and Reason
  • faith and reason are not contrary or incompatible, but assist each other
  • faith itself is reasonable, being arrived at by revelation assisted by right reason
  • pure reason is necessarily limited, and it is also impaired by influences of the world and sin
  • reason’s search for truth always relies on and trusts (takes on faith) prior revealed knowledge
  • religious faith helps reason to discover itself and open it to transcendence
3. Existence and Nature of God - Who and What is God?
  • “I AM” – Logos – Creative Reason – Being itself – Truth
  • Love, outward, fruitful and unitive
  • Alpha and Omega - Complete in Himself and only Necessary Being
  • Transcendent of Space and Time, thus omnipresent and eternal, singularity and totality of time
  • Personal Being
4. The Trinity – One and Three - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • God is Love, and love, by its very nature, is relational – total perfect love is communion
  • God is Truth – One and complete in Himself
  • In God, there is an everlasting personal love, the Holy Spirit, that proceeds from and between the persons of the Father and Son
  • a loving communion of three distinct persons in one undivided divine nature, substance, and essence
5. God the Father – Creator
  • creation of universe ex nihilo and ab initio temporis
  • the universe and human beings are not accidental or arbitrary products of chance, but willed by God
  • Divine Providence sustaining what God has created

B. Existence and Nature of Man (CCC 355-421, 1846-1876)

1. Who and What is Man?
  • created by God in Love and Truth, contingent and dependent upon Him
  • Man, male and female, equal and complementary, made in the image of the Triune God
  • “not good for the man to be alone” – emptiness of individual solitude
  • social-relational beings, incomplete in ourselves, in need of an other and Other in order to be true to ourselves
  • body and soul, having one nature of matter and spirit, which is temporal and transcendent
  • human personhood – a free subject with an inherent dignity, not an object or thing, possessed with sentience and free will, as well as the capacity for reason and for love
2. What is the Meaning of Life?
  • “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself”
  • love one another, as Jesus loves us, so too should we love one another
  • God reveals meaning of life in scripture and in our very bodies, male and female
  • we are made to love and be loved in truth
  • made in love and truth, we are naturally drawn toward God, who is Love and Truth
  • made in the image of the Trinity, this love is not merely relational, but spousal in nature
  • meant to exist both in general society and in a specific loving communion of persons
  • spousal-type communion with another human in marriage, or with God alone, is both unitive and fruitful (procreative)
3. Love and Truth and the Freedom of Mankind
  • love is not love if it is not freely given and freely received
  • God does not force His love or truth on us against our will – God does not even save us without our consent, we are free to choose to return His love or to reject Him and live our lives apart from Him
  • Man has independent agency, with rational control and freedom to think and act - the universe is not purely materialistic and pre-determined
  • the existence of a free will not pre-determined by physical factors suggests the existence of an extra-corporeal aspect to the person
  • it is the spirit that allows one to transcend and overcome the mere biological electro-chemical reactions in the brain and thereby choose our actions
  • the existence of free will means that we are morally responsible for our own willful choices
4. The Fall of Man – Original and Individual Sin
  • sin, Original and personal, necessarily is in opposition to God, who is Truth and Love
  • Adam and Eve erroneously believed that they did not need God, but could be gods themselves with the power to choose their own truth, their own concepts of right and wrong
    • this Original Sin has affected and infected us all, leaving a stain on our very being
    • the stain of Original Sin cannot be removed by our own efforts, but requires the transformative power of God, which we receive in Baptism
    • a wide gulf of separation between humanity and God was created, so great that man is incapable of crossing it on his own
    • mankind forgot knowledge of God
  • individual and social nature and consequence of sin
    • corruption of human nature, including ability to love and discern truth
    • weakened will and impairment of reason, judgment, and ability to see and know God, rejection of Light has thrown us into darkness
    • intrinsic punishment of being a slave to error and further sin, temptations overwhelm us
    • ultimately, sin so removes us from Truth and Love, that is, Life, that we are “doomed to die”
    • poisons all relations with others, both other humans and God
  • types of sin – mortal and venial
    • mortal sin involves a grave/serious matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent, such that it destroys love in the heart and turns one away from God, thereby resulting in eternal death if forgiveness is not sought and accepted
    • venial sin wounds love in the heart and weakens grace, but is not so serious as to break the covenant with God, warranting temporal punishment and purgation, but not eternal death
C. God – Who is Divine Mercy – Calls Humanity Back to Himself (CCC 50-73, 484-511)
  • Preparing Mankind for the Coming of Jesus Christ
  • Establishing Relationships with Specific Peoples, and Gradually Revealing Himself, with Christ and the Church Prefigured Repeatedly Throughout History
1. Salvation History While Still in the Garden
  • in breathing His Spirit into us and making us in His image, God imprinted upon our very being a natural desire for God
  • the proto-evangelium, a promise of deliverance
2. The Covenant with Noah
  • the Flood and the Ark
3. The Covenant with Abraham
  • revelation of One God, the God of all peoples and all places
  • a chosen people and a promised land
  • called out of a far country
  • sign of the covenant
  • the meaning of total faith – offering to sacrifice Isaac
4. The Covenant with Jacob/Israel
  • the suffering of Joseph leads to saving the people of God
5. Moses and Freedom from Bondage in Egypt
  • the blood of the Passover lamb saves God’s people from death
  • God leads His people out of bondage – passage through the waters of the Red Sea
  • God protects His people, manna and water in the desert
  • God gives His people freedom by giving them the Law - Torah
6. Judges and Kings
  • military rulers
  • the people desire a king, Saul is anointed, followed by David
  • the covenant with David – promise of the Messiah
  • psalms and other writings describe marital and parental relationship with God
  • Solomon builds the first Temple
7. Repeated Infidelities of God’s People
  • God’s people turn away and fall into sin, and God allows them to suffer the consequences
  • enemies and invaders threaten and conquer Israel
  • God mercifully forgives when the people seek to return to Him
  • the Temple is defiled and razed
  • the Diaspora and Babylonian exile
  • the Prophets remind people of God’s mercy, encouraging them to have hope and return to Him
  • the messianic prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel
8. Prophecy of a New Covenant
  • prophets Jeremiah and Joel announce the coming of a New Covenant, which includes the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all mankind
9. Return from Exile
  • the land of Israel is heavily influenced by Greeks and other foreigners
  • Maccabean revolt and Jewish independence
  • the eternal light of the Temple
  • Rome conquers “Palestine” and installs Herod the Great as king

D. The Culmination of Salvation History – Jesus Christ

1. St. Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord
  • “Hail, Full of Grace”
  • Immaculate Conception
  • Mary’s “Yes”
  • Theotókos, the Mother of God, living temple of God
  • Ever Virgin
  • New Eve
  • Assumption into Heaven
2. St. Joseph, Protector of Jesus and Mary
  • model of faith and love – selfless sacrifice and love without possessing
  • wise and faithful servant
  • Joseph’s “Yes” – the love and mercy of the just and righteous man
  • teacher and provider for Jesus
3. The Incarnation and Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • God merges into humanity, the Fruit of Mary’s womb, flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone
  • the mystery of the eternal, omnipresent, and all-powerful God entering time and becoming small and dependent
4. St. John the Baptist
  • last and greatest of the prophets
  • prepares the way for the Lord
  • announces to the world that the long wait is over, salvation has come

Adult Confirmation Class One - Extended Notes

The word "catechesis" is a Greek word which means "to make resound like an echo." The word was adopted by the early Church as part of implementing its duty to make disciples of all nations. In transmitting the Good News, the Church has a constant "memory" of the events of salvation history and makes them known, so as to provoke an "echo" of the faith in the mind and in the heart of the listeners, and thereby transform all their life. This echoing of the faith includes narration of the wonderful deeds of God and the awaiting of the coming of Christ, who is the culmination and center of salvation history, and of His return have always accompanied the exposition of the mysteries of faith.

On the Existence and Nature of God (CCC 26-50; 198-278)

The unavoidable question of life is whether or not God exists. To arrive at a correct answer to that mystifying question, one must, of course, have a proper conception of whom or what God is. It is quite easy to reject any belief in God if all you know is a caricature of Him, rather than the reality. The problem is that, while the mere existence of God is knowable by reason, reason is necessarily limited by what is already known or by what can be imagined. However, reason can be enlightened by revelation, helping us to know who and what it is that we seek, that is, helping us to have that proper conception of God, at least to the extent that we can comprehend, conceding that the full extent of the nature of God is beyond our limited human comprehension, which we call “mystery.”

Faith and reason are not incompatible. Faith helps reason to discover itself. As Pope Benedict has pointed out, the search for truth in any endeavor never starts from zero, but always presupposes a trust in knowledge, ideas, and data which we cannot always control by ourselves. Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of revealed faith.

Also, when one simply "takes it on faith" that God exists, then it all starts making sense. As St. Augustine discovered, belief leads to understanding, which in turn leads to greater belief. Once we simply flip the switch of faith, the light comes on, and we can see, thereby confirming that we were right to trust. Thus, in answering the question of God, it is good to consult revelation as a starting point from which our reason can determine whether this is a truth to which we should give our assent.

Revelation informs us that:
(a) God told Moses that He is the “I am.” (Ex 3:13-15) What does this reveal about God? It means that God, as the “I am,” is the Ultimate Reality, complete in Himself and, therefore, One. He is Being itself and is therefore Truth itself. Indeed, if something lacks truth, it lacks reality and existence. This Truth is the first principle, from which all else follows. Referring to Himself as the “I am,” shows that God is a transcendent conscious reality that has a name, an identity, that is, He is not merely philosophical truth, not merely a cosmic force, but a personal being. He is not merely a what, but a who.
(b) God, that is to say, Jesus Christ, is also the Word (Jn. 1:1-5), that is, Logos (Creative Reason), and as such, is again Truth itself from which everything that exists proceeds. And yet again, He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all things. (Rev 21:1-7) In Him, all things are made new.
(c) However, Revelation informs us that God is not merely Truth, He is also Love. (1 Jn. 4:8) And this is demonstrated again and again in salvation history.

Now, love is by its very nature relational, that is, love is not self-oriented, but must extend outward -- an “other” is required for love to exist, one who loves and one who is loved. Love does not exist in a vacuum. And total perfect love, love in its truest and fullest sense, involves not merely a relation of persons, but a communion of persons. Accordingly, God is not a one-dimensional being who exists in solitude, but, rather, being Truth and Love, complete in Himself, He exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – a Holy Trinity, an everlasting communion of three distinct persons in one undivided divine nature, substance, and essence. Each possesses the fullness of the other, and each has always existed. In God, there is an everlasting exchange of love between the persons of the Father and Son, and this love proceeding from and to each of them is not merely a sentiment, but is a person as well, namely, the Holy Spirit.

This One Truth who is also Love is eternal and transcendent, not bounded by time or space. That is, He exists beyond and outside of space - the physical universe – and because time is a measurement of changes in space, He exists outside of time. He is pure, infinite, unbounded spirit. For God, time is not linear, as for humans, but is a singularity and a totality – all moments exist simultaneously and each moment exists in perpetuity. As a result, He transcends the universe and is eternal.

God and Creation (CCC 279-354)

If the question of God is unavoidable, so too is a related question, which is often asked with respect to proofs of the existence of God: Where did the universe and where did we come from?

In Love and in Truth, God created the universe. By His Word, He created it ex nihilo and ab initio temporis (out of nothing and at the beginning of time). We know this from divine (written) revelation, but even without written revelation, God reveals Himself in nature, such that knowledge that the universe was created by God can be attained by reason and observation of the orderly universe. Indeed, the very word "cosmology," meaning the study of the universe, is derived from the Greek cosmos (order) and logos (reason), and non-religious ancient scholars, such as Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero long ago posited reason-based theories for a God-Creator.

But are not faith and science necessarily in conflict with each other? How can reason and observation alone lead to the conclusion that the universe was created by God? Well, the very first premise of science is that truth exists, and that reason exists. It is a premise of science that the universe is ordered, and that it strictly operates according to rational laws, including cause and effect, Newton’s first law of motion (inertia), conservation of energy/matter, and the second law of thermodynamics (entropy).

One cannot get something out of nothing. A thing cannot have itself as its own cause, a thing at rest stays at rest unless moved by another thing, and entropy (disorder) in a closed system tends increase over time. The physical reality that is the universe did not and could not have created itself. It did not and could not have set itself “in motion.” Indeed, a universe of chance and arbitrary randomness – a universe detached from reason -- could not have created the ordered and reasonable universe that exists today. Chance and arbitrary randomness cannot account for matter that exists in a stable, ordered form, or for the fact that some of that matter is alive. Chance and arbitrary randomness cannot account for the infinite complexity of the human organism, much less the capacity for thought, free will, and autonomous action. The universe, order in the universe, and mankind had a cause independent of themselves, and that cause was the First Cause and First Mover of all things – God. (See also, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, q. 2, art. 3)

And yet, some insist that the universe and reality itself sprung into existence by an arbitrary and accidental act. Not only did the universe just spring into existence all by itself, it was and is just coincidental that certain sub-atomic particles react with other particles in particular fashion, and that they are thus bound together, so as to permit the existence of atoms, molecules, and compounds, not to mention galaxies, stars, and planets. But the existence of these things, and the fact that they follow rational laws, would dictate as a matter of science that they were caused by something rational and true.

The fact that one of those planets just happened to be so lucky so as to be just the right distance away from the sun, which radiated just the right kind and intensity of light and heat, and the temperature of the planet was just right and that planet had just the right kind of elements in the right proportions so as to be able to form oxygen and water, shows that we are either extra-ordinarily lucky, like hitting the Lotto every single day for 100 years, or we are here because of some rational creative act of reason.

Moreover, some of this matter became animated, that is, alive, which also points to a rational cause; it points to the conclusion that life is not simply the result of haphazard events. Life is not the result of the random collision of molecules and electro-magnetic pulses. And the fact that some of that life actually has the capacity for sentience and thought, an ability to form and create ideas and to exercise independent agency, i.e. free will, which actually transcends the physical, points to the possibility that reality is not limited to the physical universe, but there is a reality beyond it. Indeed, science has repeatedly postulated the existence of realities beyond the known universe, or even the existence of non-corporeal life.

There was a cause to all of these things. That cause was necessarily "Creative Reason," i.e. Logos (God). As we can see, the basis for believing in the existence of God merely from simple observation of the world around us, experience, and reason, is compelling. To be sure, the Big Bang Theory only confirms what revealed scripture has said all along. But as far as reason takes us, it does not take us all the way. Revealed faith, on the other hand, does allow man to reach for and attain the transcendent.

The Existence and Nature of Man and the Meaning of Life (CCC 355-384)

If the above questions are unavoidable, so too are the questions: Where does mankind come from and why do we exist? Just as observation and reason allow us to come to the conclusion that the universe was made by a Creator, so also do observation and reason allow us to conclude that life on earth, especially human beings, were also the fruits of a Creator's thoughts and actions. But, as with the universe generally, written revelation and faith enlightens our reason to an even greater degree, so that we can know not only where man came from, but why he exists in the first place. For those who have no use for God, the meaning of man's existence has only confounded and confused, leaving them all too often in existential angst and nihilistic despair. For those who accept revelation and faith -- the truth has set them free.

Revelation informs us that, in Love and in Truth, God created “man,” male and female, in His image. Man is a created being; he is not self-actualizing, he did not create himself. He is not accidental, and he is not the product of spontaneous animation of matter. We were and are created by a thought of God; each of us is willed by Him as an act of love. Man exists, man lives, only because God the Ultimate Life has breathed into the body of man (Genesis 2:7), thereby giving him life by His own Holy Spirit. This also shows also that man was created not merely as a physical entity, like a stone, and not merely as a spiritual being, like the angels; rather, God created us with a unified soul-infused body, which comprises one nature of spirit and matter, transcendent and temporal. To be made in the image of God also means that we are persons with an inherent dignity, not things, and that we are possessed with sentience and free will, as well as the capacity for reason and for love.

Man is naturally drawn toward God -- even if he does not realize it or argues against it -- because man is naturally drawn toward love and truth, and this love and truth that man seeks has a name, they are a person -- God. Now, although love is naturally fruitful, God did not have to create the universe or human beings. He was not forced or compelled to do so out of some narcissistic need to be worshiped. Rather, He chose to create the universe and humanity. God is complete in and of Himself, in need of nothing outside Himself. As the “I am,” the Logos, God is the only necessary being – we humans are entirely contingent upon Him.

Our bodies (male and female) reveal that God made us, like Him, to be social and relational beings who are equal and complementary, beings who are meant to need each other and exist both in general society and in a specific loving communion of persons. That is, “man” as an individual, is incomplete. We are in need of an “other” to complete and fulfill us.

This truth is further explained by scripture, which presents us with a “theology of the body.” Genesis (1:26-28) informs us that “God created Man in his image; in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them.” To be made in God’s image means to be made in the image of truth and love. As demonstrated in the Trinity, this love is not merely relational, but spousal in nature, that is, a love that draws the individual toward a communion of persons. By the words, “He created him; male and female He created them,” we see that there was an original unity of male and female, man and woman; that they are designed to be complementary and intended for each other in equal dignity.

In another account of the same truth, (Gen. 2:18-25) describes how God said "It is not good for the man to be alone.” To demonstrate this, God first had the man exist in an original solitude, so that we could see how much we are in need of other persons. Although the man had the company of plenty of animals, he saw that none of them were like him, he was alone. Having demonstrated by experience that it is not good for him to be alone, God then took a rib from the side of Adam and, from that rib, made Eve, leading Adam to exclaim joy¬fully, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This describes how, as individuals, there is something missing in our very being. For both men and women, there is a gaping hole in our side, and we desperately need an “other” to fill that hole. Without that other, there is a void, an emptiness. We need to have that rib returned to our side to be whole again, to be fulfilled. We need the “other” to be one and complete, to be true to ourselves, and the other can fill the void only with and by love.

We cannot be fulfilled if we are left to ourselves in solitude. We can fill part of that hole with a spouse, as with the first spouses, Adam and Eve, but even then God needs to be part of the relationship to bind them together and to fill the remaining void. Indeed, we see that “man” manifests an image of the Trinity, a communion of three persons in one, when man (male) and woman (female) are joined together with God, as husband and wife, by the Love that is the Holy Spirit. Moreover, love in its fullest sense being not only unitive but naturally fruitful, we have the ability to share and participate in God’s procreative power of creating new life and have been explicitly commanded by Him to “be fruitful and multiply.”

For those who are permanently single, God is the only one who can fill the entirety of that void because He is the One who is Love, the One who is Completeness. Unless and until the heart is thusly filled, there is a restlessness and a hunger.

Indeed, we exist to love and to be loved in truth. That was, and is, God’s plan for humanity; that is the meaning and purpose of life -- to live in the truth and love and be loved. (Mt. 22:37-40; Jn 13:34)

After creating mankind, God did not simply withdraw into heaven, sit back, and do nothing. That would not be love. Rather, in Divine Providence, He continues to interact with His creation, sustaining and caring for it by His Love and Truth.

Man and Freedom

Man, male and female, was created in the image of God, who is Love and Truth. God loves each of us and seeks our love in return. Accordingly, as individual human persons, we are meant to exist in love and truth, that is, the meaning of human life is to love and be loved in truth.

At the same time, love is not truly love if it is not freely given and freely received, and love does not force itself or impose itself upon the other. That would not be love, but an act of falsehood and an act of violence. As such, God does not force Him¬self or His Love upon anyone. God is not a puppet master. Thus, we are also created with a capacity for free choice of the will. This free will, an ability to choose, includes the ability to freely choose to return God’s love, or the freedom to reject Him and live our lives apart from Him.

1. The Question of the Existence of Free Will

Does freedom of choice really exist or is it an illusion? Does an individual have the true ability to determine the course of his thoughts and volitions, to decide which motives shall prevail within his mind, and to modify his own character, or are his thoughts and volitions, his character and external actions, all merely the inevitable outcome of his circumstances? Is everything, including our choices, pre-determined by some prior cause, either some physical cause, or by God controlling everything? Are choices and actions all inexorably predetermined in every detail along rigid lines by events of the past, over which the individual himself has had no sort of control? Or do we have the autonomy to exercise authentic control over our decisions and actions?

Addressing the problem of the existence of free will requires understanding the relation between freedom and causation, and determining whether or not the laws of nature are causally deterministic. The issue of free will is especially important with respect to ethics and morality. Unless man is really free, he cannot be justly held responsible for his actions, any more than for the date of his birth or the color of his eyes.

For those who believe in God, the idea of the existence of free will is rather simple to believe in. We have the evidence of its existence in our daily experiences of making choices in thought and action. But the person who does not believe in God, or who rejects the idea of God altogether -- along with the idea that human persons possess a soul, a spirit from God -- both the agnostic and atheist have a dilemma to overcome with respect to the supposed existence of free will.

2. Determinism vs. Free Will

Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Determinism may also be defined as the thesis that there is, at any instant, exactly one physically possible future.

If the agnostic or atheist persist in their unbelief, then many necessarily must logically conclude that "free will" and "self-determination" do not really exist, indeed, "thought" does not really exist, they are simply illusions that we think that we are experiencing. That is because the physical world is governed by certain fixed and uniform physical laws, as well as the law of cause and effect, and if God does not exist, that is, if a cause beyond and independent of the physical universe does not exist, then all future events or effects are necessarily caused, or determined, by some prior pre-existing physical event or condition operating under the laws of nature.

If there is no God, then the universe is purely materialistic, and the human being does not have a soul, but is merely a body, a biological entity whose apparent "independent thoughts" are nothing more than electro-chemical impulses interacting with chemical markers that have been laid down in brain tissue, and which we know as memory, with both those impulses and markers being themselves pre-determined by other purely physical causes. Thus, “free will” is merely an illusion, a mere feeling of independent agency. And if our thoughts and actions are all pre-determined and we have no personal power to think and do otherwise, then they are not really our own thoughts and actions, and we cannot justly be held morally responsible for them.

3. The Soul and Free Choice of the Will

“Free will” is the metaphysical truth of independent agency and elective power, including the ability to exercise autonomous and rational control over one’s decisions, thoughts, and actions. The existence of free will means that the actions of the body, including the brain and the mind, are not wholly determined by physical causality, that one’s thoughts somehow go beyond and transcend the physical body, suggesting the existence of an extra-corporeal aspect to the person, which we call the spirit or soul. It is because we are both body and spirit that we are able to transcend and overcome the mere biological electro-chemical reactions in the brain. It is because we are not purely biological, but have a spirit, that we are able to transcend what pure biology and environment dictate.

The human brain is like a computer. A computer operates strictly according to its software programming and the efficacy of its hardware. So long as there is no physical damage or defect, the computer will only do what its program dictates, without any deviation whatsoever. The actions of the computer are totally pre-determined by its programming. Likewise, the human brain operates according to its own hardware and software, by electro-chemical impulses along synapses, which interact with memory that has been created by certain chemical markers on the brain tissue. However, human persons are possessed with more than a body and computer-like brain.

Faith -- revelation and reason -- informs us that we are also possessed with a soul, and this spiritual component of our being is able to rise above and go beyond the merely physical, including the physical laws of cause and effect. As a result, we are able to make independent decisions with respect to actions taken. We lift our hand and move our fingers because we consciously choose to do so of our own volition, not because of some pre-programmed biological memory and electro-chemical reactions in the brain.

We are made in the image of God, and therefore possess to a certain degree that same power of the Logos, that is, we have a certain power of creative reason, which transcends and overrides the physical brain and permits independent thought and agency.

Now, because humans do have free will, and their thoughts and actions are the result of their own willful choices, they can justly be held morally responsible for them. That is, it is right and just that we should experience the consequences of our choices.

The Fall of Man (Gen. 3:1-24) (CCC 385-421)

Free will, an ability to choose, includes the ability to freely choose to return God’s love, or the freedom to reject Him and live our lives apart from Him. Thus, the man and the woman of Creation were free to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, even though God had warned them not to: "the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die."

The man and the woman thought that they could be like gods themselves, that they could then choose their own truth, their own reality, their own concepts of right and wrong. They thought that they could be self-fulfilling and self-sufficient, not needing God or other people. Even today, there are many people who still believe this. Indeed, we could easily say that we are, ourselves, both Adam and Eve, that the story of the Fall of Man is one that repeats itself on a daily basis.

However, the man and woman were wrong. In eating the fruit, in freely choosing to oppose God, believing that they did not need the one true God, but could be gods themselves, Adam and Eve did not become gods, but instead fell from truth into error. And error necessarily leads to more error, until ultimately you are so removed from Truth and Love, i.e. Life, that you are "doomed to die," and not merely bodily death, but eternal death, that is, Hell.

By opposing God, by turning against love and truth in this way, man necessarily severed the relationship between mankind and God, who is Love and Truth, and so corrupted human nature that our ability to love and to reason and discern good from evil is impaired. Before the loss of his “original innocence,” man could see – truly see. He could see God, truth, and love.

But after sin, which is an offense against truth and genuine love for God and neighbor, man’s sight is impaired, his hearing is distorted. While hiding in the bushes, vainly seeking to hide from God, instead of being able to see Him clearly, the man now saw only leaves and branches. His ability to see God, to know God, to know love and truth, was grievously impaired. Loss of original innocence necessarily means that man can no longer live in the Garden of innocence and truth.

Thus, we see that, as with this first “original sin,” our own individual sin, which is done by our own free choice of the will, carries its own intrinsic “punishment” -- error leads to more error, until, in your ignorance of the truth, you are in slavery to error and sin and death. By choosing to sin, choosing to set aside the Light and Truth of God, you are necessarily left to fend for yourself in ignorance and darkness, and you will find yourself inadequate to the challenge. And it is that first, original sin that is the root of every other sin.

By sin entering into the world, our entire human nature is wounded, corrupted, and compromised, our souls are tainted. Our judgment is clouded, our ability to reason is impaired, and the influences and temptations of the world overwhelm us, plunging us into darkness and error and slavery to further sin.

Some sin is so grave and deliberate that it destroys love in the heart and turns one away from God, thereby resulting in eternal death if forgiveness is not sought. We call these “mortal sins.” But what is such a serious and grave sin may not be so apparent to us, especially in our fallen state. For example, we might not think that merely eating a piece of fruit after being told not to is all that bad, but that seemingly innocuous act was the most mortal of all sins because by it, eternal death resulted. There are also those sins that wound love in the heart and weaken grace, but are not so serious as to break the covenant with God, thereby still allowing for eternal life after the stain of such sin is purged from us. We call these “venial sins.” While such venial offenses may not result in eternal death, they do warrant temporal punishment, and they also impede us in the exercise of virtue and the pursuit of moral good, as well as the in the ability to fully love and discern truth. Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the judge who determines whether we are in a state of grace or whether the sins we may commit are mortal or merely venial.

The account of the Fall in Genesis not only shows how sin affects the sinner, it demonstrates how sin is intensely social. Indeed, this Original Sin did not affect merely Adam and Eve, but has affected and infected us all, it has left a stain on our being. All sin, both original and individual, affects and injures not only the sinner, but all of us. Sin severs and poisons all relations. After eating the fruit of the Tree, Adam not only foolishly tries to hide from God, but the first thing he does when confronted is to blame Eve. What directly follows is Cain’s murder of Abel.

Salvation History (CCC 50-73)

The book of Genesis informs us that man used his freedom, not to embrace love and truth, but to turn away from love and truth, thereby corrupting our human nature. As a result of this sin of believing that you are equal to or above God, of believing that you can create your own truth, your own idea of right and wrong, good and evil, the proper relationship between mankind and God was and is severed. In opposing God, who is Life, man necessarily brings death upon himself.

The result of Original Sin is that a wide gulf of separation between God and humanity was created, a separation between man and love, truth, and life. The gulf of separation between God and humanity is so great that man is incapable of crossing it on his own. To be sure, following the Fall and expulsion of man from the Garden, mankind even began to lose knowledge of God. And not only are proper relationships between mankind and God severed, but, as we see with Adam turning against Eve, and Cain killing Abel, proper relationships between human beings themselves are estranged, so that, instead of living a life of love and truth toward others, mankind has lived a life of selfish self-gratification and exploitation of others; instead of harmony, there is discord.

Now God, who is Divine Mercy, knew this rupture would happen. God knew that His covenant of love with Adam would be broken, and He already had a plan for reconciliation. This process of God calling humanity back to Himself is called “salvation history.”

God did not abandon His creation, but sustains it and has even physically entered into its history. This history of salvation, which recounts the words and marvels of God, what He has done, continues to do and will do in the future, is organized in reference to and converges upon Jesus Christ. The structure of salvation history, of which creation and eschatology are its beginning and its end, includes the events in the Old Testament, by which God progressively prepared mankind for the Gospel, the life of Jesus, who brings Revelation to completion, and the history of the Church. As such, Christ and His Church were prefigured in many ways throughout salvation history.

The first process of God calling humanity to Himself is, of course, creation itself, with God breathing his Holy Spirit into us to give us life, and man, male and female, being made in the Triune God’s image and likeness, thereby imprinting upon our very being a desire for God. Upon the Fall, in Genesis 3:15, in a passage known as the proto-evangelium, God tells the serpent who had tempted Eve in the Garden that her offspring would strike at his head, thereby foreshadowing the deliverance of mankind by Jesus Christ, who would demonstrate the serious nature of sin, and the high cost of redemption, by taking man’s sins upon Himself and dying on the Cross.

After man had forgotten God, the plan of redemption was to establish a relationship with a specific people and develop them so that they could learn to know God and live according to His will of love and truth. In progressive fashion over time, God revealed Himself to a greater and greater degree while also forming covenants with certain people.

God first established a covenant with Noah. (Gen. 6-9) During a time of great evil, the righteous Noah and his family were granted salvation by obeying God’s instruction to build an ark before the waters of the Flood came to wash away sin. Thus, as with Christ and His Church, through one man and the ark, the whole family of the faithful were saved from death and destruction at the end of the world.

God next established the great covenant with Abraham to set apart a people to be His own. (Gen. 12, 17) To show that He was not merely the god of a particular place, as was believed to be the case by the polytheists of the time, but that He is the One God who is Lord everywhere, God told Abraham (then called Abram) to leave his home in Ur (present day southern Iraq) and go to a far land, Canaan (present day Israel), which would be given to him and his descendents. To demonstrate this covenant with Abraham and his descendents, the sign of the covenant, circumcision, was made on the instrument of procreation. Through these chosen people, God would bring salvation to all mankind.

At this time in human history, not only was polytheism widely practiced, but human sacrifice was a part of some of those religions. In order for Abraham (and we) to fully understand the gravity of the situation, and so that he could demonstrate and prove (to himself) that he had total faith in the Lord, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, God followed the expectations of the times and told Abraham to offer to him in sacrifice, which Abraham dutifully prepared to do. (Gen. 22) God did not test Abraham in order for God to know the extent of his fidelity, the omniscient God already knew. Rather, God tested Abraham so that Abraham would know that he was so faithful that he was willing to sacrifice his own son, whom he loved. However, God does not, in fact, desire human sacrifice; He desires mercy and a loving heart (Hos. 6:6). And in order to graphically demonstrate that as well, God had Abraham proceed to the brink of sacrificing Isaac only so that He could then stop him. Neither Abraham nor any other member of mankind would be asked for such a sacrifice. Instead, as Abraham told Isaac, God Himself would provide for the sacrifice, as He also did in providing Himself as the Lamb of God.

The covenant was renewed with Jacob, also called Israel. (Gen. 28, 35) When Jacob’s son Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and Joseph was then unjustly thrown into prison, God demonstrated His providence by bringing good out of evil. Joseph was later freed from prison and given a powerful position in Egypt, where he was able to save his family from famine. (Gen. 37-46) Thus, as with Christ, one innocent man suffered to bring life to God’s people.

In time, though, the people of Israel fell into slavery, so God revealed Himself to Moses, who would lead them out of bondage in Egypt, and they were saved from death by the blood of the Passover lamb, just as we are led out of the bondage of sin and death by the Paschal Lamb, who is Jesus Christ. And to help them know what He had already written on their hearts, God gave them the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law, reduced to physical written form and kept within the Ark of the Covenant. But still, the people chose to wander in the desert, and that has been the history of man throughout the ages. Nevertheless, God continued to protect His people, even providing them manna and water by which to survive.

Eventually, the people settled in Canaan, to be ruled for a period by military leaders known as “judges.” When they desired a king, God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul, who was succeeded by David. God established a covenant with David, saying that his descendent (the Messiah) would reign as King forever. David’s son Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, but the kingdom was soon thereafter divided in two.

Meanwhile, various enemies and invaders threatened Israel, just as the Canaanites and Philistines had done previously. The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Macedonians all imposed their military might upon Israel, which was a major trade route. The land was conquered, many people were carried off into slavery and exile, and outsiders moved in, resulting in intermarriage amongst those who stayed behind. Eventually, however, the people would be restored.

This cycle of events occurred over and over in the history of the people of Israel – The people would rebel by falling into sin and God would allow them to suffer the consequences, such as by being conquered by their enemies. The people then cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness, so the Lord has compassion and forgives. Despite their repeated infidelities, God did not abandon them, but remained ever faithful to His people, so as to continue to prepare them for salvation.

During the unfaithful times, prophets arose, and God in various ways called the people to return to Him. During exile in Babylon, the messianic prophecies of Isaiah told of the Spirit of the Lord resting upon a descendent of David, a suffering servant who would endure pain, hardship, and even death for the sake of the people. In the book of Daniel, it is revealed that one would come like a “son of man” on the clouds of heaven to defeat the beasts of evil, and he would receive everlasting dominion and glory in a kingdom of salvation.

The prophets Jeremiah and Joel also told of God establishing a New Covenant, which would fulfill and exceed the old covenant, and would include the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all mankind. Unlike the old covenants, He would write His law of love and truth on the hearts of the people. They would know Him and, from the least to the greatest, He would forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more.

Upon the return from the Babylonian exile, the people of Israel found their land heavily influenced by Greeks and other foreigners. In time, those foreigners included the Romans, who conquered the area they called Palestine and installed Herod to rule as king.

It was then that God chose to bring salvation history to its culmination. A simple and humble girl was conceived immaculately, in the fullness of grace, without the stain of that Original Sin. In effect, in an image of God’s intended relationship with mankind, God proposed marriage to the human race. This young girl, Mary, was like a new Eve, and she accepted that proposal, saying “yes, let it be done” to her as God willed, when an angel announced to her that she would bear the Savior (Lk.1:26-45). Thus, we proclaim that Mary is the Theotókos, the Mother of God. Just as the first Eve was formed out of the first Adam, so Jesus, Son of God and the new Adam, was formed out of the new Eve, flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone.

In Jesus, God literally merged into mankind, becoming small, defenseless, and vulnerable while dwelling within the Virgin Mary’s womb, in the most intimate of relationships. To be sure, to show that such an intimate relationship was not meant to be Mary's alone, to show that all the faithful are called to intimately receive Him into our own bodies, the newborn Jesus was placed in a manger. As with the straw that was food for the animals, so too Jesus is shown to be food for us in the Eucharist. And by becoming small in this way, the all-powerful God who needs nothing chose to need us, chose to need our help in bringing about the salvation of man.

Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, by becoming His mother, became our mother too, and the Mother of the Church. As our Mother, like at Cana when the wine ran out, Mary is sensitive and attentive to our needs, and she intercedes and asks her Son to provide for us. (Jn. 2:1-5)

The preparation of mankind for the coming of the Redeemer was completed by John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the prophets, who leapt for joy and was filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary visited his mother Elizabeth. The Baptist proclaimed to the world that the long period of expectancy was over. The Christ (Messiah) was at hand.

But the One anointed by God would not be as men expected, a military ruler, but the lowly suffering servant and Lamb of God, who would be the sacrifice provided by God to atone for man’s sins and, thus, redeem mankind.


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