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June 15, 2022
Humanity Under Attack
In the beginning the world existed in perfect harmony. For Christians, Jews and Muslims, this state of harmony was permanently derailed by human actions; by a human’s desire to be their own God. Throughout the ages, humanity has since been plagued with greater and greater acts of violence and grave evils in the human pursuit of total autonomy. Eons ago, people threw rocks and sticks at each other. Today we have sophisticated weapon systems so that we have the capability of removing the human species from the entire face of the planet. The greatest danger to humanity is not some atomic or other such super weapon. The greatest attack against humanity begins with our willingness to believe in a lie.
In the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, God tells Adam that he and the woman were welcomed to eat any of the fruit of the garden except from a certain tree – The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. For a while these primitive humans were content avoid the forbidden tree. At some point in human history, the two found themselves near the forbidden tree, perhaps contemplating what they might be missing by not tasting its fruit. But; God had said “NO!”. Enters the tester in the story, the Devil.
“Hi Adam, Hi Eve, how’s it going?”
“Excuse me, Adam says, who are you?”
“Oh, nobody special, just happened to be in the neighborhood. What are you thinking about?”
“Well, we were wondering about this tree and why it is forbidden.” Eve says.
The Devil says, “Well, why don’t you just try it and find out?”
“Oh, we can’t do that, God said if we did, we would die.”
“Come on, I know this God you are talking about. He just doesn’t want you to eat the fruit from this tree because you would become just like him. He’s not going to kill you.”
We know the rest of the story, but we may not quickly grasp the whole of the story to see how it is replayed out every day in human history – even in our own lives. Consider that the Devil did not find Adam and Eve somewhere in the garden and bring them over to the tree. They were there already. They already desired for its fruit, but were stopped by God’s threat of death. So, the Devil – the Serpent – lied twice, telling them that God wouldn’t kill them and that they would become like gods themselves. And so they ate of the forbidden fruit; and they didn’t die – right away – but they were not made powerful by their knowledge, they were frightened and hid themselves from each other and from God.
Let’s think for a moment about some of the dynamics of this story and think about how we re-play the same story in different ways.
Before the Serpent enters the story, Adam and Eve desired the fruit, but they were afraid of the consequences. The lie of no consequences could not have persuaded them to eat if there wasn’t already present, the desire to be lied to. The Serpent told them what they already wanted to hear, already wanted to believe. St. James, reminds us that “… each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by their own desires (James 1;14). The only power a lie has is the power our willingness to believe allows.
For myself, growing up in a Baptist environment, sin was always taught as something we did or thought. From what I have learned about Catholics, it was the same – sin was always something we did (or didn’t do) said, or thought. We must, however consider sin more as a dynamic – developmental or progressive in nature, versus a static specific action, non-action, thought or word. In its Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), the Church Fathers explain the nature of sin beyond its specific definition.
- 1855 – Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law.; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.
- 1857 – For a sin to be mortal, three things must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent”
- 1860 – Unintentional ignorance can diminish, or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.
- 1871 –Sin is an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law. It is an offense against God. It rises up against God in a disobedience contrary to the obedience of Christ.
In moral theology, we learned that there are fundamentally two types of actions we, as human beings are capable of: Acts of Humans and Human Acts. An act of humans is simply an action we are allowed by our physical and intellectual capabilities. We can drive automobiles, fly airplanes, etc. An Act of Humans involves the will. Humans have a will, not just instincts. Humans can decide with purpose in ways that no other animal is capable of acting or deciding. Thus, mortal sin is an Act of Humans.
An important distinction, a modifying agent to “sin” is that which impedes our free will. #1860 outlines some of these factors. First of which is ignorance. Today, we may see the word ignorance as an insult, but ignorance only refers to the lack of awareness or knowledge. We, through our acting as a human, can inadvertently cause great damage. Our lack of genuine knowledge of future consequences can mitigate, annul the culpability for sin. When we, as humans decide to purposely ignore the future implications leading to a grave evil, we cannot claim the same argument of ignorance. Willful ignorance is part of mortal sin.
Let us consider for a moment a young woman, single and pregnant. The father of the child within her has no desire to be part of the child’s life, or offer support in any way. The young woman has no family support or safety outlet. The young woman may know full well that the child of her womb is a human being; she may know full well that God loves all human life; She may know full well that having an abortion kills a living human being. If she decides in favor of an abortion, her sin may be mitigated by external pressures. Her decision may not be as “free” as we might impose. That is between her, her confessor, and God.
However, there is a malicious voice in societies around the world, proclaiming the lies of “choice” – “It is not really a child until it is born; It is your body; you have sole jurisdiction over your body; you are doing the child a service of mercy, etc.” When people buy into these lies because they satisfy a convenience, they cannot claim the same protection of ignorance, they have made an Act of Humans to cooperate in a grave evil. Willful ignorance does not mitigate culpability.
As I write this, Russia has invaded the nation Ukraine. As we understand the conflict, all the arguments proposed by Vladimir Putin are malicious fabrications, lies of great magnitude. Yet, he has the support of his military and much of the Russian population. We, here in the United States, as in many other countries, recognize that the support of the Russian people is greatly influenced by the limitations imposed by the government concerning the reporting of this military adventure, to re-create the Great Mother Russia. We ask ourselves; how can they (the people of Russia) be so blind?
As I write this, the Congress of the United States of America is holding public hearings on the Insurrection of January 6, 2021. There have been only two public hearings as of yet, but witnesses across Party lines have testified that former President Trump knew of the events of the day as they were happening, and did nothing to intervene. People died on that day because nothing was done to end the invasion of the Capital. The impetus behind the insurrection was to re-claim the presidency for Donnald Trump based on the well documented LIE that the election was stollen through a vast web of voter fraud. Two years after the election, there are still thousands and thousands of people who claim Trump won the election. Why? Because the false narrative satisfies their desire. They want to believe!
As I write this, groups (mostly of men) around the country are purporting extreme violence against people of different races, religions, or sexual orientations. The have bought into the LIE that they are somehow made more important by diminishing another person. Why? They want to believe this.
As I write this, the United States of America has been again devastated by another mass shooting in a school, an elementary school. The weapon of choice was, again, an assault weapon, a weapon originally designed specifically for the military. And yet again, the gun lobby, lead by the NRA has promoted the LIE that “guns don’t kill, people do.” The prophet Ezekiel proclaims the sin of Jerusalem: “For when they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it (Ezk 43:39). Just how many children need to be sacrificed at the altar of the NRA, thinking that the false idol of the AR-15 is going to make us a safer nation?
Every day we are challenged by those who would have us buy into some lie or another. Every day we are challenged to examine our consciences, to take control of our emotions, to follow the Truth of God, of Christ. But how can we know this Truth? Whatever divides us; sets us apart from another person; denies the sacredness of all life at every stage; proclaims personal rights over social responsibility, comes from the Evil one. I am not judging anyone. I am no less guilty as anybody for falling into a trap of lies because it satisfies something I already want to believe. The moral challenge is to inform the mind, the heart and the will to comply with the law of God. The true moral question would be: “What Would Jesus Do?” It wouldn’t be what divides society into groups of color, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, economic abilities, physical qualities or any other division the perverse mind can conjure. Christ unites all peoples under the same umbrella of God’s mercy. To be like Christ, we must do also.
From a treatise on the Lord’s prayer by St. Cyprian, bishop and martyr
All Christ did, all he taught, was the will of God. Humility in our daily lives, an unwavering faith, a moral sense of modesty in our conversations, justice in acts, mercy in deed, discipline, refusal to harm others, a readiness to suffer harm, peaceableness with our brother and sisters, a wholehearted love of the Lord, loving in him what is of the Father, revering him because he is of God, preferring nothing to him who preferred nothing to us, clinging tenaciously to his love, standing by his cross with loyalty and courage whenever there is conflict involving his honor and name, manifesting in our speech the constancy of our profession and under torture confidence for the fight, and in dying the endurance for which we will be crowned – this is what it means to be a coheir with Christ, to keep God’s command; this is what it means to do the will of the Father.