I’ve missed one morning set, and several of the evening prayer sequences, in the routine I started February 13. (February 19, 2017)
I’m doing a little better so far with the Lenten Chaplet. I started that Ash Wednesday.
Emphasis on “so far.” I nearly forgot twice, which doesn’t surprise me. There’s a very good reason for my wife handling the household’s schedules, and that’s another topic.
This is where I could quote Romans 7:19 and launch into a ‘wretcheder than thou’ lament. It’d be accurate, on one level, since I’ve felt this way often enough:
“For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”
But I won’t, since I think hypocrisy, inverted or otherwise, is a bad idea. I’ve talked about Luke 18:9–14; Colossians 2:18; and Uriah Heep; before. (October 23, 2016; July 31, 2016)
Feeling that I generally do what is wrong, not what I know is right, is understandable.
Spending decades with undiagnosed depression and an autism spectrum disorder left me with quite a few regrettable perceptions and habits. (February 12, 2017; October 14, 2016; October 5, 2016)
Feelings aside, I know that I have trouble doing what I know is right and avoiding what is wrong.
Jonathan Edwards, Mark Twain, and Me
There’s a reason for that, and it’s not that I’m “some loathsome insect:”
“…every unconverted Man properly belongs to Hell….”
“…The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you….”
“…you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God….”
(“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” pp. 6, 9, 15, 18; Jonathan Edwards (July 8, 1741) (via Digital Commons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln))
Edwards had, and has, a remarkable influence on America’s religious assumptions. I think that helps explain Mark Twain’s attitude, and my sympathy for it:
“I don’t like to commit myself about heaven and hell – you see, I have friends in both places.
“When I think of the number of disagreeable people that I know who have gone to a better world, I am sure hell won’t be so bad at all.”
(Mark Twain, p.377 of Evan Esar, “20,000 quips & quotes” (1968))
“[H]eaven for climate, Hell for society.”
(Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Speech to the Acorn Society (1901); via Wikiquote.org)
“I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then I’ll go to Hell.”
(Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), via Bartlett’s Quotations, 16th ed.)
I also think, and hope, Jonathan Edwards meant well.
I was going somewhere with this. Let’s see: prayer, Uriah Heep, Jonathan Edwards, Mark Twain. Right. Got it.
Having sympathy for Twain’s “[H]eaven for climate…” quip doesn’t mean I think Heaven is filled with folks who wouldn’t associate with hellbound sinners and other riffraff.
One more thing, about Genesis and all that. As I keep saying, Adam and Eve aren’t German. (October 21, 2016; September 23, 2016; August 28, 2016)
“The Man Replied….” Sound Familiar?
Today’s Bible readings start with Genesis 2:7–9, 3:1–7.
That’s where Eve listens to the serpent, Adam listens to Eve, and they both make a really bad decision.
Then Adam firmly plants both feet in his mouth with this gem:
“The man replied, ‘The woman whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.'”
Right. They’re both in trouble, so what does Adam do? Tries blaming his wife and God. That did not end well.
Making sense of Adam, Eve, Genesis, and my erratic success with prayer, means backing up a little. A lot, actually.
Still Basically Good
The universe is basically good. So are we — basically. (Genesis 1:26–27, 31; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 299, 364, 369, 374)
Humanity was made “in the divine image.” We still are. (Genesis 1:27; Catechism, 31, 355–361)
Each of us is a rational creature with free will. We can decide what we do or do not do. We are also responsible for the consequences of our decisions. (Catechism, 1730–1742)
The first of us listened to Satan, ignoring what God had said. (Genesis 3:5–13)
We’ve been living with consequences of their decision ever since. (Catechism, 396–412)
That was a very, very long time ago.
I’m not personally responsible for those consequences. But I either deal with them, or pretend they’re not there, which doesn’t seem prudent.
“Original sin” is what we call the mess we’re in. Here’s how the Catechism defines it:
“ORIGINAL SIN: The sin by which the first human beings disobeyed the commandment of God, choosing to follow their own will rather than God’s will. As a consequence they lost the grace of original holiness, and became subject to the law of death; sin became universally present in the world. Besides the personal sin of Adam and Eve, original sin describes the fallen state of human nature which affects every person born into the world, and from which Christ, the ‘new Adam,’ came to redeem us (396–412).”
Loving ourselves, others, and God, is a struggle. That’s because the harmony we had with ourselves and with the universe, and our friendship with God, is broken. (Catechism, 374–379, 398, 400)
That’s the bad news. The good news is that human nature is wounded: but not corrupted. (Catechism, 405, 1701–1707, 1949)
I don’t understand God. Not fully. I can’t. (November 13, 2016)
God’s God, I’m not. I’m a created being, like everyone else. (Genesis 1:1; Catechism, 279, 285)
God is beyond time and space, and “here” in all places and all times. The Almighty is infinitely good, “a mystery beyond words.” (Catechism, 206, 230, 268, 284, 300, 385, 639, 647–648, 2779)
On the other hand, ‘faith seeks understanding.’ St. Anselm wrote that, more or less. His first title for “Proslogion” was “Fides Quaerens Intellectum.”
Latin isn’t my strong suit, but I think “Fides Quaerens Intellectum” is “Faith Seeking Understanding” in my language.
That was about a thousand years back now, and the slogan stuck.
What I’m trying to say is that wanting to better understand God is a good idea. (Catechism, 156–159)
Understanding God would be easier if we weren’t dealing with original sin. Our current default settings give us a distorted picture of God. (Catechism, 399)
I strongly suspect that’s why it seems so easy to imagine ourselves as targets in a shooting gallery, and God as someone blowing off steam.
“… There is no Want of Power in God to cast wicked Men into Hell at any Moment….
“…They are now the Objects of that very same Anger & Wrath of God that is expressed in the Torments of Hell….
“…In short, they have no Refuge, nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every Moment is the meer arbitrary Will, and uncovenanted unobliged Forbearance of an incensed God….”
(“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” pp. 5, 6, 12; Jonathan Edwards (July 8, 1741) (via Digital Commons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln))
Jonathan Edwards was not a Catholic, by the way.
God the Father: Really
God wants to adopt us. All of us. (John 1:12–14, 3:17; Romans 8:14–17; 2 Peter 1:3–4; Catechism, 27–30, 52, 1825, 1996)
I decided to accept the Almighty’s offer. (February 26, 2017)
Seeing God as a father can be scary.
Some fathers aren’t good at our jobs. Some are quite simply bad at being fathers: taking out anger and frustration on other members of the family, and that’s yet again another topic — a sad one.
Happily, God isn’t that sort of father. I can expect love, compassion, and help when I needed it. (Psalms 103:4; Catechism, 268)
I can also expect learning opportunities.
My experience strongly suggests that God will keep letting me experience first-hand why some daft decision was a bad idea: like drinking too much. (July 10, 2016)
I don’t see that as a lack of love. I do see it as a good, if occasionally painful and embarrassing, way to help me learn why doing the right thing actually does make sense.
In the long run.
Making use of these opportunities in a timely fashion is — still another topic.
More of how I see God, love, and being human:
- “Oatmeal For Lent”
(February 26, 2017)
- “New Daily Prayer Routine”
(February 19, 2017)
- “Satan Didn’t Make Me Do It”
(November 13, 2016)
- “Sin, Original and Otherwise”
(November 6, 2016)
- “The Virtue Trap”
(October 23, 2016)
Thank you. Very thought-provoking.
God bless you.
– – – and you. Encouraging use of the brains God gives us seems like a good idea. 🙂
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Extra word: “I’m doing a little better with so far with the Lenten Chaplet.”
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There, I fixed it it. 😉