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Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Church and State

We look in our own society and the societies known by history, and we see many institutions such as guilds, labor unions, Elk Clubs, neighborhood groups, clan groups, professional organizations, corporations, colleges and universities, and many more.  But three core institutions have been observable in any age over the last two thousand years or more.  Two are natural:  Family and State.  The third is supernatural:  Church.

Each of these have their own proper spheres into which the others are not to intrude.  Family may not legitimately condone killing, which belongs to the State.  State cannot direct reproduction, which belongs to the family.  Church strengthens, supports, and corrects both family and State without ever performing their functions herself.

Due to the influence of the Catholic Church among the Easterners, Romans, and Anglicans, much of the ancient morality of man has grown.  Holy Church has born witness to the love of God, and slowly abortion, infanticide, slavery, rape, and the inhuman treatment of women have subsided.  In many societies today, none of those things are considered decent, and those who commit such must delude themselves in order to do so.

Unfortunately, family, state, and church sometime slip loose from their proper roles.  We see that Church and State often oppose each other in human experience.  Often, government captures and controls religion.  Rarely, religion captures and controls the government.

One of the reasons Western Civilization grew to become the preeminent civilization in the world is due to the two poles of Church and State in the European Middles Ages.  Individuals had to choose who to obey:  Prince or bishop.  This led to the political development of individual conscience, which was strengthened by the loss of a huge portion of the population in the Black Death.  In England, the serfs were freed.  Over the centuries, the Church of England placed English Bibles in every parish, the Book of Common Prayer was placed in the hands of every parishioner, and Parliament gained power from the king.

Church law, called canon law, rules the churches which we voluntarily attach ourselves to.  The laws of our government do not govern our churches; we govern ourselves, except in odd cases of property disputes, often involving the decaying husk of the Episcopal Church.

Why?  Christ did not accept the expectations of the Zionists around Him who wanted Him to claim the earthly throne of David, overthrow the Roman occupiers, and restore the united Kingdom of Israel in West Asia.  He obeyed the authorities of His day.

St. Paul and St. Peter wrote that Christians must obey the authority of government but give different reasons for doing so.  For St. Peter, in the words of Fr. Shepherd, obedience is “… a means of winning [pagans’] respect and of putting to silence the malicious slanders of the pagan mobs against the Church.” Church and state were quite separate in the early Church.

But with the conversion of Constantine, Emperor of Rome, and the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, authority became murkier.  Emperors convened Ecumenical Councils of undoubted catholicity.  Bishops, especially the Bishop of Rome, came to exercise governmental authority.  When the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the authority of the Pope kept anarchy and starvation from devastating Rome.  But this change in the practice of Christianity in Western Civilization led to great disagreement within Christianity.  Over the years, it led to political and then economic freedom.  Eventually, it led to our American republic.

Early colonists in New England opposed the Church of England sending a bishop to America, for they feared the political tyranny which would follow.  Indeed, Anglicans in the American Episcopal Church first received a bishop from the outcast Non-Juroring bishops of Scotland, who were outside of the established Church of England.

As Anglican Catholics today, through the days of King Henry VIII, and as far back as the primitive Catholics of the early Church, having the Church in bed with the government is dangerous.  Unlike the rhetoric of the secularists and atheists of today, it is not dangerous for them.  It is dangerous for the Church.

The Church cannot speak the undiluted Word of God when she has a committee of Parliament or Congress approving new bishops and overseeing her budget.  The Oxford Movement of the 1830s arose from exactly such a conflict when Parliament voted to reduce the number of Irish bishops without the consent of the Church of Ireland.  The Church of England did not get approval for their 1928 Book of Common Prayer because Parliament voted against it.  Could you imagine such a thing today in America?

So we have two reciprocal acknowledgements, one of which St. Peter writes about in today’s Epistle.  First, the government has a responsibility to govern a free people who may freely follow the religion of their choice.  Second, the Church has a responsibility to acknowledge that the State has a proper job to do and Christians should let the State do it, and even sometimes to assist the State in doing it.

First.  The Bill of Rights and the Constitution of these United States guarantee us the right to assemble, to speak, to own property, and to practice our religion freely.  Historically, there have been reasonable and modest limits to these rights.  We cannot own other people.  We cannot assemble in the middle of the street.  We cannot invade someone else’s property and yell at them.  We cannot offer child sacrifice.

Today, the pagan mobs are starting to howl against Holy Church.  Right now, civil discourse and freedom of speech are under attack.  Tomorrow, it might be the right to assemble together or the right to hold property.

As the influence of Christianity wanes and the hostility of the political elites grows in our fair land, we hear from Washington the replacement of talk of the freedom of religion with the freedom of worship.  This is an insidious substitution alien to our republic.  We worship in this building.  But we mostly practice our religion outside of these red doors.  We worship an hour or three a week, but we practice our religion 168 hours a week.

I took a Czechoslovakian girl to the school sock hop our first year in high school.  The Cold War was still on.  Her mother had sneaked her across the Iron Curtain into Austria.  She had never gone to church, for the communist authorities had told her parents that she could either go to church or go to school.  1982 Czechoslovakia apparently had freedom of worship, but it certainly did not have freedom of religion.

Today’s Red China bans the Roman Catholic Church and supports the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association which obeys the Party leaders in Beijing.  “Roman” Catholics can worship there legally, but they cannot follow the heirs of the apostles their Church deems legitimate.  The Communists won’t even allow Papists to be Papists.

As Christians and citizens and as American lovers of political freedom, we must remain vigilant against efforts by the state to constrain the freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ publically even if it is not popular.  We must remain vigilant against efforts by the state to constrain the public practice of our religion in our everyday lives.  We must pray for those in authority, and most of us should exercise our ballot and right to protest to prevent the denigration of the dignity of the Bride of Christ, Holy Mother Church.

Second.  We acknowledge the Christ to be our true Lord and King in a way that the lords and kings of this earth cannot begin to touch.  We will always obey Christ over the demands of the State, even if the State puts us to death.  The Roman Empire allowed Christians to live if they worshipped the Emperor as a god.  But Christians have only one God, and he was most certainly not a man in a toga in Rome.

For most countries at most times, Christians can live in relative harmony with their government.  They cannot live with radical Moslems, Stalin, and Hitler of course, but in most countries at most times.  Why is this?  Because in the words of Christ and the teaching of the Apostles, governments have a proper place in God’s creation.

In today’s Epistle, we read such words from St. Peter.  Hear these words:

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”

St. Peter gives us several reasons and principles for living a Christian life regarding our government.

First, you are to “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”  Accepting the authority of laws simply because they are laws is known as legal positivism.  But as Christians, we absolutely will refuse to obey laws if they are contrary to God’s will.  No Christian acting as a Christian could legitimately have participated in the offering of incense to the Roman emperor or the Nazi slaughter of the Jews.

We obey the government’s laws for the sake of Christ.  Just as we claim our sin is ours alone but our virtue comes from God, so the virtue of the State comes from Christ, and we obey the State only for Christ.

Second, we give obedience “unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”  The main reason St. Peter gives for obeying the state is because the government punishes the wicked and praises the good.  When the state government locks up a murderer and when the county government gives a medal to a fireman who rescued a child from a burning house, those governments are acting best according to the Gospel.

Third, we give obedience to the authorities so that we may be counted as good by the citizens of the State.  Not everyone in society is a Christian.  In some societies, very few people indeed follow Christ.  But good people are found everywhere.  When Christians obey the laws of the country, then “with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”  It is hard to whip up opposition to Christians when they follow the laws, live moral lives, and pay their taxes.  If we are to be mocked and derided, we should suffer it for Christ’s sake, not for the sake of our own immorality.  By obeying the laws of man, we gain respect of those who would hate the Church.

Fourth, we have liberty in Christ.  But you are not to use “your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”  The freedom we have in Christ is to be used to further the kingdom, to excel each other in righteousness, to do good works, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are not to use our liberty as an excuse to follow our own selfish and immoral proclivities.

For instance, this can be an issue in Moslem countries which ban alcohol.  If faithful Moslems see people become Christians so they can justify drunkeness, then they will not respect Christianity, Christ, or Christians.  We are free so that we may serve our good God without bounds, not so that we may live selfish lives.

 

We should give thanks for the role Christ’s Church has played throughout the last two thousand years in elevating societies in common decency and political freedom.  We should give thanks for this country and her governments in preserving and safeguarding freedom.

We should go home today with two things in particular in mind.  First, we should prayerfully consider how we are to participate in these governments through voluntary support such as military service and voting.  Second, we should obey the laws of our governments to the best of our abilities except when our governments would have us act contrary to God’s will as found in Holy Scripture and the holy tradition of Church.  This latter refusal to participate, or even to rebel against the State, should only be done in strong consideration with the clergy and our church brethren, for such a rebellion might be more an outpouring of our malicious heart and not the witness of Almighty God.  Be careful.  Pray and obey.

 

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

The Feast of the Annunciation is popularly called “Lady Day”, although it is a feast of our Lord.  The date derives from an ancient idea, that you died on the day of your conception.  Through figuring, early Christians thought that Christ died on March 25th, which meant His incarnation took place on March 25th.  This led to December 25th as His birthday and to June 24th as the date of the conception and death of St. John Baptist.  Despite early medieval attempts to move the feast outside of Lent, the original date prevailed.

From 1066 to 1752, the English held March 25th as New Year’s Day.  Blessed Richard Hooker in his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity during Elizabethan times wrote, “We begin therefore our ecclesiastical year with the glorious annunciation of his birth by angelical embassage.”  For nearly 700 years, New Year’s Day was today.  Can you imagine?

 

Our Lady was a woman amongst men, poor amongst powerful, young amongst those wizened in years, and unmarried amongst married.  She was faithful, but she was the least of the Jews.  And yet, through her faithfulness and obedience to God, she becomes the greatest of all people, men or women, who have ever lived who were not God Incarnate.

St. Gabriel tells her that God has “highly favored” her amongst all other people.  You see, God heaps blessings on those the world despises.  We see with the eyes of this world, of this culture, and yet God despises our order and our values except insofar as they conform to him.  God blesses those whom he finds worthy and not those whom the world bathes with awards, treasure, and honor.  “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” says Christ.  And again He says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”  And in the Old Testament, Isaiah lv.9:  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

St. Mary’s response in great faith made her in the Holy Ghost a vessel through which God the Father poured God the Son into the world.  The Blessed Virgin, though a creature, though our sister through Adam and Eve, became a vital and critically important part of God’s salvation of all the world and all mankind.  We owe a great debt of thanks to her, but she gave it all up to God, and she would have us give it all up to God.  When we submit ourselves to our loving and almighty God, the greatest things in Heaven and Earth can happen.  Again and again, we see in Sacred Scripture God raising up men and women to fulfill his righteous will amongst us.  Since we are created in God’s image and redeemed by God’s Son, we are important.  As obedient to God’s will, we act vitally important.

 

The Blessed Virgin’s obedience did not lead to happiness unbounded.  Remember her mourning at the Cross?  Remember St. Simeon in St. Luke ii.35 prophesying, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also”?  She gave birth, not in the inn, but in the stables.  They could only afford the sacrifice of the poor when they presented Christ to the Temple.  She and Joseph fled with Christ to Egypt to save His life.  She saw the priests and scribes conspire to kill Him.  And yes, she was there at Pentecost as well.  She lived a blessed life, but she lived neither a sumptuous or easy life.

We think that God’s blessing will bring prosperity and joy, but often God’s blessing brings hard, difficult, and painful work.  Death and suffering accompany us on the journey Godward.

Those with easy lives might think they have gotten away with a well-lived life, when they have done nothing.  Those who have faced an uphill battle through trial and tribulation may cry out for a rest, but may indeed have won a crown.

And note that heavenly visits inspire fear and wonder.  We want to see an angel to comfort us and to strengthen our faith, but indeed we may cower in fear upon the sight of one.  We pray for divine guidance, but find that truly divine guidance will lead us into danger and out of worldly prosperity.  Our simple earthly minds cannot fathom nor comprehend the immense and profound wonder that a heavenly being such as St. Gabriel would have upon us.

Never doubt the courage of the Virgin when she placed herself into God’s hands during the visit by the angel.  Such an overwhelming and scary experience for a young woman!  But perhaps this is what our Lord meant when He said that we had to become as little children to enter into the Kingdom of God.  He would have us remain innocent and open to fantastic experience, not hardened and jaded like we had earned every year of our life through hard work and bitter disappointment.

And if anything can happen, then what is next?  Probably not what we expect.  The faithful Christian should have a heart like St. Mary, open to the unbelievable possibilities of Almighty God, our Heavenly Father.  We must truly believe that the Holy Ghost can do all things.  We must truly believe that Christ is one of us and lived a life amongst us.  We must believe in miracles and goodness and holiness and not insist upon having things our way.

 

As we are all brothers of Christ through adoption, and since we enter into eternal life through Christ, so we may faithfully and truly say that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of us all.  Christ saying to St. John from the Cross, “behold your mother”, and saying to his mother from the Cross, “behold your son”, is the symbol of this truth.

Moreover, St. Mary had the Lord inside of her just as the Messiah was within Israel, and Christ came forth from His mother just as out of Israel the Messiah came forth.

As the Blessed Virgin Mary is our mother and as she is a type of Israel, so she is a type of Holy Church.  Through our mother Holy Church, we are birthed into new life.  Thus Christians may call St. Mary our mother as well.  It is as St. Mary as mother of us who through obedience allowed salvation into the world through Christ flips the work of Eve, who though mother of us all, allowed sin into the world through Adam.

 

In the lady parts of our Lady, God the Son became Incarnate Body and Blood, anticipating and prefiguring how this bread and wine shall become the Body and Blood of Christ for us to eat and drink on God’s altar in just a few minutes.  St. John Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb when he encountered our Lord Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  So we bow and kneel before Christ in His Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  And the Blessed Virgin helped make it happen.

If you love Jesus, you have to love His mama, for He certainly did.  If you would love like Christ loves, you would love the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But if somehow you love the Blessed Virgin more than Christ, she would be the first one to correct you and point you to her Son, for she followed Him, and obeyed Him, and was there at the Cross and on Pentecost.

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary shows us that God chooses the weak of this world, shows us that following God can be costly, and shows us that she is our mother as well as our sister.  But most importantly, the Blessed Virgin is the model for Christian discipleship.

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” This is the model of the humble and faithful Christian’s prayer, placing himself under God’s will.

Father Massey Shepherd said that St. Mary is the “perfect example of a humble acceptance of God’s favor and a ready and trusting obedience to His will.  Here, indeed, one witnesses in purest form the self-giving response of a human life to the redeeming purpose of God.”

St. Mary is told she will be the mother of the Son of the Highest, and yet she makes no grand claims.  She calls herself handmaiden, a servant, chosen by another.  How often does God give us something small and we claim something big?  How often do we boast of our station or wealth or knowledge or capabilities when it all came from our good God and we earned so very little of it?  Give God the glory!  We should learn from her.

And then she wishes that God’s will be done, foreshadowing Christ’s teaching of that in his prayer, “Thy will be done.”  The Blessed Virgin teaches us how to behave before our Lord God.  She is the prototypical Christian, our mother by example if our sister by birth.

St. Mary’s “yes”, as well as our “yes”, is only the beginning of a marvelous and gracious journey of faith.  In the Gospel and the mission of the Church, each moment opens with opportunities to follow Christ, obey God, and spread the Gospel.  Like St. Mary, our obedience to God should form our essential identity in Christ.

What St. Mary started at home one day by emptying herself to God before St. Gabriel culminated in Christ emptying Himself on the hard wood of the Cross that dark day upon the hilltop.  We empty ourselves for God, not negotiating and wheedling with him about what pet trifles we might keep.  Jesus says in St. Luke’s Gospel, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

We surrender all to God.  We obey God.  We follow God.  We empty ourselves for God.  God is all we have, for we and all we have come from him.

 

“Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

 

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“O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.”

 

Christ as Example of Obedience to God

 

Why do we do give alms and fast and pray and deny ourselves during Lent?  To a great extent, we do it so that we “may ever obey [Christ’s] godly motions in righteousness and true holiness.”

But how does obedience to the example of Christ help us?  To understand that, we must first go to the beginning.  Here is much of the second and the third chapters of the First Book of Moses, Genesis (ii.7-9 and ii.15-iii.24):

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

 

Adam was utterly dependent upon God.  God gave him his life, gave him his mastery over all creation.  God created him a helpmate suited for him.  He depended upon God for all things.  He utterly trusted God.  God told Adam that he may eat of every tree in the Garden except only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And prodded by the temptations of the Devil, Adam’s own flesh, his wife, gives him the fruit of the tree, and he did eat it.  And his eyes having been opened, there was no way to unopen them.  There was no way to unring that bell.

Immediately Adam lost his faith in God, his trust in God the Father with whom he conversed in the Garden.  For you see, our first ancestors walked and talked with God in the cool of the day, innocent as lambs and naked as jaybirds.  But when Adam ate that fruit, his unexamined innocent trust in God collapsed like an old shack in a thunderstorm.

When we lost our innocent trust in God, our faith in the Almighty, then we lost everything.

Punishments are meted out.  But the main thing here is that Adam absolutely knew God in a personal relationship like two friends taking a stroll through a garden.  God gave Adam everything, except the poisonous knowledge that interrupted God’s plan of a lovely creation which glorified him.  Adam and Eve clothe themselves, hide from God, blame others, suffer curses, and are driven out of the luxurious Garden of nature at peace with itself and us.  We worry about environmental change now, but the greatest damage occurred when we lost the Garden, when the earth lost the Garden.

Adam threw away his experiential and existential love of and trust in God.  We and all the cosmos suffer for his great sin.

*That* is the proper context in which to understand today’s Gospel lesson.

For what Adam threw away, Christ picked back up.  When Adam sought to eat that which was forbidden to him by God and offered to him by Satan, Christ refused to eat that which was offered Satan and ate only what was offered to him by God.  Adam disobeyed, and we all therefore die.  Christ obeyed, and we all therefore live.  Christ brought us back to God by restoring the profound trust, reliance, and faith in God.  Christ was God become Man Who lived a perfect human life while remaining perfect God.  In Christ, God and Man are joined together.  We are saved through Christ, we become inheritors of eternal life in Him, and through the veil of His flesh we enter into Heaven.

 

There are very many parallels between this section of Genesis and our Lord Christ and even the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Indeed, God’s curse upon the serpent in Genesis iii.15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” is called the Protoevangelium, a glimpse at the Gospel to come.

Consider also Genesis iii.19.  God told Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”  But Christ said in St. John vi.48-51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Moreover, St. Paul says in Romans v.17-19:  “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)  Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”  Where Adam brought in sin and death, Christ brought in righteousness and everlasting life.

So what has this to do with Lent?  We have just begun our forty-day adventure, preparing “our selves, our souls and bodies” for the great high Feast of Easter, the annual celebration of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead.  Today’s Gospel shows us how Christ, too, went through a forty-day trial in the wilderness.  Through faithfulness and trust in God the Father, Christ withstands the full force of Satanic temptation, alluring, powerful, and striking in the hour of greatest need.

God specifically told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This is a command not to do one thing.  And Adam did that one thing.

The Fall was predicated upon the only commandment God gave being broken.  But the penalty and consequences of this lapse into sin caused misery, suffering, and death for the entire cosmos.  We still fail to obey God in all we do and say.  We are still wounded by this vile infection of distrust.  So Christ had to come down from Heaven to become one of us and absolutely and completely live out a life of faithful righteousness.

 

We do not give alms and fast and pray and deny ourselves in order to get holy enough to be acceptable to God.  We can never make up for our sins and alienation from God.  God has accomplished the work of reconciliation, of salvation, in Christ our Lord.  We cannot add to it.  God provides everything we need both in the Garden of Eden eons ago and in Augusta today.

Our almsgiving and fasting and praying and denial of ourselves help us grow closer to our Lord Christ.  We are mystically joined in Him and made one body with Him.  The Holy Ghost within us uses our little offerings to grow more and more like our good Lord.  He makes our pitiful hearts like his Sacred Heart, full of loving-kindness and mercy.  Our feeble efforts at love are expertly and divinely guided by the Holy Spirit of God to become more like Christ’s great offering of love on the Cross.  That is why we give and fast and pray and deny ourselves:  So that we might love like God loves.

 

“O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.”

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