Grace: That all my thoughts, words, and actions be directed to the praise and service of the Divine Majesty
Text for Prayer: Genesis 3:1-19
Reflection: From an early age, most Catholics are taught the that there are two different types of sin (mortal and venial) and that a mortal sin leads to the complete destruction of God’s life within the human soul. But what exactly constitutes this sort of sin? And what does it mean to have the divine life completely destroyed within a human soul?
The answer to these questions can be found in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden. The first humans are created by God out of love. They are given full knowledge of God, but this does not mean that they see God face to face, for God moves about in the garden during the “breezy time of the day” (3:8). God is unseen but fully present, and the first humans simply enjoy being in His presence. They are still human, but fully living in the presence of God, a God who is the “most concrete reality, whence all that is substantial in the world receives its equally certain and unquestionable rightness, obviousness, and nameability” as the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes. All that Adam and Eve experience in their humanity is viewed through the eyes of God. They are completely in tune with God, even though they are human. Thus, God’s plan is their plan.
However, Adam and Eve eventually start to think that there might be a little more to their lives than what God has given them. The serpent leads them to question God’s plan, and they acquiesce to his evil designs. They eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree of wisdom, realize that they are naked, and merit expulsion from the garden. Their little action, which at the time might have seemed inconsequential, has huge repercussions. No longer can they see the world through the eyes of God.
Questioning God’s plan for them leads to their downfall. And they not only question God’s plan but then consciously choose to act outside of it. This action completely destroys the union with God that they enjoyed and took for granted before the fall, the divine life that all are called to enjoy.
Human beings—created by God out of love—desire to be happy, and this happiness is experienced in its fullness by sharing in the divine life. Mortal sins are those sins that result when human beings question God’s plan for them and place themselves above God. Today the temptations towards this end are everywhere and the repercussions are no different from those that Adam and Eve encountered – shame, isolation, and pain. The ways of the world are not the ways of God, though the media and popular opinion would, many times, lead one to believe otherwise. Lent, thankfully, remains a time for reflecting on this disorientation and its repercussions, as well as a time for a conversion of heart that can allow one to live more in step with God.
Questions: Where might the ways of the world conflict with God’s plans for His creation and my own life? What are the results? Where am I tempted to conform to the ways of the world rather than the ways of God? How have I responded and what has been the result?