The one question that matters

Did you catch the language of the second reading when St. Paul talks about “the first Adam” and “the last Adam?” It is his reference to our human nature and, with God’s grace, our possibilities. St. Paul talks about the first Adam being an earthly creature – and that is a good thing. When God created this world, he pronounced his work to be good – and when we created the first Adam and Eve, he pronounced his work to be very good. We are the work of the divine potter who knew us before we were created in our mother’s womb. We are part of that divine, creative outpouring of love that is how and why the world was created and what sustains the world in being…. and yet it was through Adam and Eve that sin entered the world. And in the millennia since, we have all participated in sins from the most grave of mortal sins to that “little white lie” and “harmless gossip.” Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet had it right: “What a piece of work man is…” The deck was stacked in our favor by a loving God and yet we do what we do…Yikes!

In the first reading King Saul has been on the hunt for David, jealous of David’s accomplishment and popularity among the people. Saul means to kill David. David has his chance to eliminate the problem. But David chooses mercy rather than sin. Would we have acted the same if someone were hunting us or our loved ones? It worked out for David, but that’s no guarantee it will work out for us.

Anyway, that is a circumstance most of us will never face as we oscillate between “little white lies” and “harmless gossip” – and perhaps other classics like greed, envy, pride, anger, and you know the list of sins that bedevil us.

I am not saying those things are harmless… they’re sin and so reconciliation, forgiveness, and restitution are called for. But we are that “piece of work.” Because at the same time, we have so many positive qualities about our life that are from the grace of God.  We are earthly and heavenly at the same time. We carry the stain of sin. We bear the image of God. But we need to strive and aim higher, yes? Acknowledge our failures, but also give glory to God for our successes – ad majorem Dei gloriam. For the greater glory of God. How are we to examine our complicated lives?

I saw this very practical self-assessment video this week. It begins with a TikTok video in which a very cute little girl, on camera, is asked by her mom if the little girl thinks of herself as smart (Yes!), strong (Yea!), brave (Yea!), pretty (Yea!), kind….. and then the little girl pauses, looks away, and responds with a more subdued voice, “Not really.” The moment is unexpected, honest, and wow….

Are you smart? Are you strong? Are you brave? Are you pretty? Are you kind? Of these five, if you could only be one of them, which would you choose?

Of these five, if at the end of days, standing before the great white throne of divine justice – which one do you think God will ask?

Are you kind? If you can answer “yes” “…then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for He himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)


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