Reparation: Why waste your time praying?

Prayer is all about lifting your heart and mind to God.  There are lots of reasons to pray.  Here is one reason that probably goes unnoticed.

Think about this!  You are driving down the highway at 80 mph, clearly above the 70 mph limit, when you realize you are on a road with which you are not familiar. Rather than slow down, you reason that you should speed up to get to a place where you can turn around. Suddenly, a deer darts out in front of your car and you swerve to miss it. The momentum takes the car off-balance and it leaves the road and crashes into a bunch of small trees and bushes. You end up hitting a large tree and barely escape without killing yourself, but the person in the passenger’s seat is killed and your friend in the back is badly wounded and bleeding.  In the moments that follow, you find yourself in complete silence, and also in shock. Some people arrive and finally an ambulance comes to pick you up and take you to the hospital. You have five broken bones and a broken nose, but you will live. The two other passengers are not so lucky. They are your best friends, out for a nice ride to keep from being bored before going off to college to study law.  There is something else the physician tells you. Your blood alcohol level is way over the limits for normal driving.

THINK ABOUT THIS. All of our actions have consequences, the results of our choices. Some choices have good consequences and some have bad ones. Sometimes the results of our actions don’t show up now but pop up later on in life, or maybe even never at all.  Our actions are not created in a vacuum and can affect others even after we die.

Now, let me take you on another adventure, a mythical but real one that happened a long time ago.  You are being interviewed for a position to head a large garden. It is the vast estate of a man of means who owns everything as far as you can see. You will be his managers. He wants you to take care of it and see that the animals, the plants, and fish all have what they need to live their lives in happiness and peace. As he takes you around the garden, he points to one tree and says that it is a special tree, his prized possession. He warns you not to touch the tree, for if you do, you will die. The you look at each other, amazed, and walk on. Having given them the grand tour, the owner gives you a chance to freshen up, for it has been a long day. While resting,  a swarthy looking woman approaches you and asks if the owner has told you about the poison tree. You say that he had.  She goes on to say that, “he tells that to everyone because he doesn’t want you to be like him, powerful and rich.” She just laughed and walked away. Curious about the stranger’s statement,  you want to take another look at the tree. It is a normal looking tree with low hanging fruit, ripe and luscious. You reaches up and take fruit from the tree and eat it. And… time changes from that moment on. You can read Genesis 3 to see the consequences of this act of disobedience. The results are what we live with even today.

Here are some of my reflections: both cases were of people who did something that they should not have done.  In the first case, it was putting many people in harm’s way by reckless driving and drinking, In the second one, by deliberately disobeying the admonition of the land owner and seizing forbidden fruit.

In the first instance, the driver killed two people, and totaled the car. He said he was sorry to the judge and was let off with a light sentence. Yet, his life was changed forever. He would not go to law school, college, if at all, was years off while he paid his debts. It would seem that saying you are sorry for what you did would be enough, but then there is this: the car is wrecked, lawsuits pending over wrongful death, jail time, monetary ruin for him and possibly his family.  To put it another way, if you steal $210,00 from me in fraud, and get caught, then say to me, “I am sorry,” what is there remaining that you owe me?  The $210,000.  Reparation is the debt that I owe for the wrong that I committed. It is more difficult when the wrong is invisible or happened many years ago.

Let’s look at the second instance, the one where Adam and Eve represent all humans. The offence was doing something that would result in death, but what death. If this was the original sin, an archetype of what it means to be human, death for all humanity was the result, not just for Adam and Eve. Reparation means someone had to recreate the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, the tree of life, and apologize to the owner of the garden. Since we are talking in mythical terms, someone had to become Adam and Eve to pay a price for the offense. That is why the term redeem, in Hebrew, means to go to a pawn shop and buy back that which was hocked. Jesus had to be man, to satisfy the debt of Adam and Eve. Jesus had to be God to be able to return to the Father with our apology and give him his rightful glory and honor. Even though Jesus paid the price of his own death, willingly, we all have to live with the effects of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Christ paid off the debt that humanity owed by giving his very life as ransom. (Philippians 2:5-12)

We live in a time-limited universe. We will die. We suffer pain. We endure the temptations to, once more, be like Adam and Eve and eat of the forbidden fruit. The wily one still prowls about seeking whom he may devour. We sin, we get up, we say we are sorry to God, but there is something missing. The $210,000. Jesus doesn’t owe it, we do.

Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. We can make amends for our past offenses and sins in reparation. With humility we can continue to ask God for mercy and forgiveness. Reparation means to repair that which was torn or broken. Reparation is not forgiveness, but is the result of our sins and, like Adam and Eve’s sin, the consequences of our faults and failings. We should acknowledge that the evil we do is ours, as St. Benedict says in his Rule, Chapter 4, but the good we do belongs to the grace of God.

We pray for our parents and family, our friends and faith companions that they be loosed from their sins. There is no conveyor belt that I get on to get to Heaven. It takes work, just as Adam and Eve had to work after their fall. (Genesis 3) I know that Christ draws all things to Himself. I pray reparation petitions for the whole Church as well as for individuals I have place in my Golden Book of Life, to once again make all things new through, with and in Christ to the glory of the Father, in union with the Holy Spirit.

That in all things, God be glorified. –St. Benedict

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