Once every three years, we read the account of the Fall of Man at Sunday Mass. Good way to begin Lent. Good reminder that somewhere in the murky past, we human beings had at least a moment during which we enjoyed a better life, a life without all the struggles we now have.
We weren’t always this way. We did not always lurch through our experiences in such a Homer-Simpson-like manner. Our hearts did not always start fluttering whenever we see a frozen yogurt machine or a chocolate-chip cookie. We did not always have such a hard time concentrating on lessons worth learning, while meanwhile having such an easy time concentrating on why so-and-so should have spoken to me before speaking to that other person—how dare he snub me! We did not always pay so much attention to what other people see, while ignoring the Lord Who sees everything.
We would still live in that paradise, in that peaceful Garden of a bigger, better life—if only we human beings did not have such a hopeless penchant for letting our false pride get flattered.
“Oh, okay, Mr. Serpent. You’re saying we human beings actually know better than God? Really? Well, we wouldn’t necessarily have thought so. But if you say so…”
False pride. True pride would have said to the serpent: “Wait a minute. God made us. He loves us. He has the best plan. Maybe we don’t understand His rules perfectly. But we will. All will come clear in the end. In the meantime, we trust our heavenly Father to provide.”
But: Since we human beings occupy such an exalted state in the material cosmos, we have the tendency to confuse ourselves with God. Satan preyed on this tendency of ours. He tricked us into doubting the heavenly Father’s Providence. And we fell.
A question: We know from experience what it’s like to live now, after the Fall of Man. But how could we possibly know anything about what human life would have been like before the Fall? How can we say what kind of life Adam and Eve had, before they ate the fateful apple?
Anybody know the answer? In the fullness of time, the un-fallen Eve and the un-fallen Adam gave us a window into what human life was originally meant to be like. Who brought the Garden of Eden back to the earth? The Blessed Mother and her Son. The intimacy with the Creator which the Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin had during their pilgrim lives on earth—that intimacy teaches us about life in Eden, and about heaven.
Question 2: Death. We fell from grace in the garden, and our mortality kicked-in. Did God punish us by allowing this? Our First Parents succumbed to false pride. Therefore, all their children inherit human flesh bearing the humiliating mark of inevitable death. Punishment.
Or: Is death a remedy for the Fall? We lost the peace of perfect friendship with the Creator. Death means the conclusion of all the confusion and strife that the Fall has caused. Death means that our “fallen-ness” doesn’t last forever. Death means the Lord has opened up a doorway that leads to something else, something other than just a life of tv and failed diets and paying bills and never quite getting everything right.
The intimacy of Jesus with the Father: that intimacy shines the light of hope for fallen Man. The hungry man Who is intimate with the divine says to the tempting devil, “Man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The perfectly free, perfectly self-possessed man, says to the tempter, “We owe our service to God, and we must not put His Providence to the test.”
Now, God may test us. He may give us an unusually hard Lent. A terribly frustrating Lent. A Lent of good intentions that limp lamely, well short of fulfillment. If such be the Lent that the Lord has a mind to give us, then so be it. We will trust in His love and His mercy. We will try to die to our own pride and grandiosity.
If the Lord uses this Lent to draw us into a dark night of the soul, and we don’t feel His presence, and any good and hopeful future seems a long way off—we will praise and bless Him for it. Nothing draws us closer to God than when He demands that we live by pure faith, without any consolations in the world.
Each of us has his or her own particular problems. But we all have one problem in common: We are members of the fallen human race. And the Lord offers us all a common solution to our problem: Faith. Faith in Jesus Christ and faith in the heavenly Father Who, out of pure love, sent His eternally begotten Son to live a human life.