In my last few years of being a Lay Cistercian, I have completely changed my viewpoint about being the center of my world, but not in the way you might expect. I have been tutored to avoid being self-centered and selfish all of my life. I now glory in my selfishness because I understand that being self-centered is the natural mechanism in all of us for self-preservation. Because I can reason, something my canine or feline companions do not have, I share many characteristics and even a big chunk of DNA from chimpanzees.
I am self-centered to protect my humanity as I have come to experience it. So are all life forms. If you realize that we are descendants from what went before us, it makes sense to think that our emotions, the basics of human survival all these years, procreation, and feelings towards others all preceded us. That got me thinking. What did not make it in the transition from animality to rationality? All the animals in the world now, and from that first cell, don’t have the power to move from one nature (animal) to something higher (rational).
When humans began to mature and refine their abilities to reason and make choices that won’t hurt their survival, they were somehow different from how other animals acted. Over the centuries, as time progressed, patterns of early human behavior became more overt, sometimes involving many people or even groupings of people into a tribe. People probably gravitated into tribes for safety and basic human needs (food, water, shelter, and shared tasks).
But, something was still not right. People were selfishly stealing the property of others, telling falsehoods, committing murder and rape, enslaving other people, cheating, being jealous of others, and other ways to be selfish and possessive. Not that humans don’t have the potential for good. I see a fragile line between my animality and rationality when I look at myself. This blog is about why we can do both evil and good and who is to blame? St. Benedict reminds his monks in Chapter 4 of the Rule to:
“41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
44 Live in fear of judgment dayhttps://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
45 and have a great horror of hell.”
Lost in all the various four traditions of the Genesis account, there is evil and moral corruption in the world. There is no moral corruption in the physical universe. There is only the systematic corruption of matter (everything has a beginning and an ending, plus all matter deteriorates, even if from one form into another). Animals don’t do bad things; they act according to their nature.
WHERE DID MORAL CORRUPTION ORIGINATE?
As I read the Book of Genesis, particularly Chapters 2-3, I am struck by how it describes this corruption of the mind and its effects. At its core, Genesis is a compilation of oral traditions from multiple (four) sources over a period of time. It seeks to teach its listeners (readers) that what they experience in life in the form of evil comes from humans, not God. God is the author of life but has the freedom to choose what is good or bad is not God’s doing, but the responsibility of each human. Choices have consequences, as St. Paul points out in Romans 5. Yet, we survive in a world of incorruptibility with the help of the Holy Spirit. Since this blog is about moving deeper into the Mysteries of Faith using contemplation, read the passage that follows slowly and prayerfully at least three times and ask yourself how corruption permeates the world in which you live.
Morality is always linked to behaviors that come from our choices. Evil is a choice that leads to our humanity being dissonant with who we are supposed to be. Good is a choice with an outcome or consequence that is in keeping with our behavior. Who tells us that? God does? Why can God tell us that, and we know it innately? I only live seventy or eighty years; if I am lucky, I die. God created us in his image and likeness and therefore knows our actions’ intended and unintended consequences. What we do good allows us to be resonant with all reality, while the wages of sin is death.
What Father would create a son or daughter and give them a stone when they asked for bread, our daily bread? Because of the corruption of the mind, we make choices that are easy (those that please our flesh and egos, our lust for power and money and have no power to raise us up to a higher level), rather than choosing what seems like the opposite of what the world says is meaningful (a sign of contradiction and what is right according to God’s DNA for us). We don’t have the freedom to choose something, and that something is right because we choose it. We have the freedom to lift up to the Father each day our free will (the only thing God does not have) and say Thank You that Jesus saved us from the slavery of the world as the center of our life. In the course of human events, God gave us Baptism to take away the sin of the world, leaving us free to live out whatever time we have left in preparing ourselves to be present to the Father…Forever. The problem is we live in the incorruptible spiritual universe right now, beginning with Baptism, but still are wed to matter and mind in a way consistent with our humanity. We struggle to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus each day, why we can commit sin after our conversio morae. That is also why we have the Church to help us during our seventy or eighty years to allow Christ to be present with us, not to do it for us, but to give us the power of incorruptibility in our journey.
Moral corruption means the deterioration of the spirit, my spirit, when it comes into contact with the corruption of matter and mind. The Evil One is the Lord of the world, roaring about, seeking whom he may devour. Many call him Lord or Master and even think they are doing right by doing wrong. Our Lord and Savior is Jesus, whose Kingdom is not this world. We inherit this Kingdom through Baptism and adoption. We are destined for incorruptibility but still inherit the consequences of Original Sin until we die.
In this context, I find myself as one who has been accepted into the Lay Cistercian patrimony and matrimony. While I live as a human, I must seek God daily to keep at bay the forces of corruptibility that relentless wash at my shores, seeking to encroach on my territory.
Faith, Hope, and Love.*
1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace* with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,a
2through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.b
3Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance,
4and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,c
5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.d
6For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
7Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.*
8But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.e
9How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.f
10Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.g
11Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Humanity’s Sin through Adam.
12* Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world,h and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned*—
13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i
14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j
Grace and Life through Christ.
15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.
18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k
19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l
20The law entered in* so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,m
21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.nhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5
After the two stories of creation in Genesis 2-3, Cain kills Abel. Think of Genesis, in fact, the whole of Sacred Scriptures as the inspired writings of both Old and New Covenants designed explicitly for those who are left after Christ died. Apostles and Early disciples had the Torah and the oral stories that Jesus told them, like those formed in the book of Genesis. They were confused and terrified because they had lost their Master, their Teacher. What were they to do? What did Jesus want them to do? This is the corruption of the world at work on the mind. There was no one to tell them what to do, what their future might be. Do you feel their despair, their hopelessness? Two things happened to the Apostles gathered behind the locked doors for fear of their lives. Jesus, Son of God, Savior, stood in their midst, and the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, overshadowed them to move them from dissonance to resonance, from the corruption of matter and mind to the incorruptibility of the Kingdom of Heaven, their heritage. Can you feel that same power in you? If not, what is blocking this energy from overshadowing you? The Apostles still lived in a world of corrupt physical and mental worlds, but there is a significant difference. Do you know what that is? Christ had just paid the price for our redemption, which paved the way for the Holy Spirit to introduce them to the spiritual universe that has no end because it is incorruptible.
LIVING IN A WORLD THAT IS CORRUPT BUT ALSO IN A WORLD THAT IS INCORRUPT
31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world* will be driven out.y 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”z 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would di.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/12
DON’T LOSE YOUR BALANCE WHILE STANDING ON TOP OF A PICKET FENCE
I am corrupt (still live within the parameters and effects of the corruption of the matter and mind) until I die, but now, I also live in the World and the Kingdom of Heaven. Lay Cistercian practices, especially daily desire to move from my false self (the corrupt world) to the true self (being an adopted son ((daughter)) of the Father), is actually my movement from corruptibility to expand my incorruptibility or capacitas dei. I need to remember NOT to lose my balance when thinking of all these corruption/incorruption and resonance/dissonance ideas. Losing my balance would be just focusing on the corruption of humans and how bad they act without considering the nobility of the human spirit and its search for the meaning of love.
How I can simultaneously be living in a matter and mind that exists only under the influence of corruption but not be bad in my nature is something of a wonder and shows a complexity in the Word made flesh. The problem God had was one where He only made good (Genesis 2-3, including humans) but left it up to humans to choose what is right over what is convenient to their need for pleasure, feeling good, and sexual fulfillment. In his classic book, The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm sets forth what he calls unauthentic love versus authentic love when he states that not all love is good for us. We can choose what is bad for us even when we think it will bring us pleasure. Unauthentic love is choosing alcohol, drugs, and the orgiastic state. Authentic love is choosing love that has four aspects: care, responsibility, respect and knowledge” (Art, p. 21).https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0lsn0-H5kY
If evil or bad choices don’t come from God (a prime conclusion from reading Genesis 2-3), and they don’t automatically come from humans because what God made is good, then how and why do humans do the things they don’t want to do but don’t do the things they want to do (Saint Paul)? In its transition from animality to rationality, what is in human nature that causes aberration in thinking to its very nature, that God would have to send His only Son to put straight that which made crooked by a single choice of Adam and Eve? In the Garden of Eden story myth, the ancient archetype of why humans do bad things yet are good in their nature, Humans (Adam and Eve) use their gifts of reason and free will to choose what was presented to them as alternatives to God by the snake, the archetype evil or a choice presented to humans that leads to them halting their progression towards incorruptibility. It is as though God tells Adam and Eve, “I made you so that you could live with me forever in a state of perpetual incorruptibility that your human nature could endure in my presence as divine nature, but you chose the way of corruptibility. You need to wait and practice getting it right.”
The Old Testament is nothing other than a record of God’s people trying to get it right but not moving to the next level of their evolution, the spiritual universe. They could not see a Messiah whose power was in making all things one in a kingdom ruled by Christ, the head, while all of us try to choose God once again to make up for the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus, Son of God, our Savior, had to leave the security of being God to show us how to do what we were not doing to become incorruptible, to move to our next stage of existence as humans, that of fulfilling our original purpose to be happy with God in heaven…Forever. (Philippians 2:5) The New Testament is a record of what Jesus teaches us about how to love one another as He loved us. Heaven on earth begins with me being baptized, being presented the gift of adoption by the Father so that, from now on, I at least know the purpose of life and now have the way to follow, which leads to discovering heaven right now, every day. When I die, I take all that I know, all that I love, and the connections I have made between Christ, the Chruch Universal, and those I have written in my personal Bibila Raza (blank book). I received that book at Baptism and, in it, I write everything good that I want to take to heaven with me.
Appearance to the Disciples.*
19On the evening of that first day of the week,j when the doors were locked, where the disciples* were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.* The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.k
21* [Jesus] said to them again,l “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
22* And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,m “Receive the holy Spirit.
23* n Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
24Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”o
26Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”p
27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
28* q Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29* Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?r Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s 31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.thttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/philippians/2
HOW CAN THE CHURCH BE HOLY WHILE EVERYONE IN IT IS SINFUL?
The Apostles still lived in a world of corrupt physical and mental worlds, but there is a significant difference. Now, Christ has re-establishes entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, what we inherit as adopted sons and daughters is incorruptible. All we have to do is sustain Christ as our center, susceptible to encroachment by the world’s corruption if we don’t do something to fight against it. This struggle is prayer in all its forms. Prayer puts each of us in the presence of Christ so that the power of the Holy Spirit can overshadow us with God’s own energy.
Recently, some people I know have left the Church because of the rash of pedophile priests being discovered after years of cover-ups. How can evil exist in a Church that preaches incorruptibility? This conundrum has always plagued me because I know only Jesus and Mary (because of the Holy Spirit) were the only two persons incorruptible. The rest of us are born into the moral corruption of the spirit (not the Holy Spirit). Evil does not come from God nor Christ because they are incorruptible and have no sin. However, I am only human in nature, so I am born with Original Sin (a corruption of matter and mind and prone to corruptibility in my choices for what is good or bad for me. Baptism takes away the world’s sin, but I still live in this world until I die and inherit the next life. When I use the term corruption of the spirit, I refer to my human nature being tested by the Lord of the World (Satan) each day until I die. Although I know I will win the battle because the Holy Spirit will not let the gates of Hell prevail against me, there are plenty of battles and skirmishes that I will lose. Once again, my savior is Christ, who gives me the power to seek mercy and reparation for my offenses through the Holy Spirit. The Church is Holy because it is incorruptible in Heaven and Purgatory, but the Church militant must still run the gauntlet of landmines while alive. Individuals are corruptible, but the Church (beginning with the Baptism of each individual) is incorruptible.
Read the words of St. Paul on incorruptibility and how we are redeemed by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. I encourage you to read them slowly and pray that these words might enter your hearts and give you the peace that the world cannot give.
42* So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.
43It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.v
44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.
45So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam,* became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.w
46But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual.
47The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.
48As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.
49Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image* of the heavenly one.x
The Resurrection Event.
50* This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption* inherit incorruption.y
51* Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,z
52 in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.a
53 For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.b
54 And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:c
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”d
56The sting of death is sin,* and the power of sin is the law.e
57But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.f
58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
I Corinthians 15