Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Chronicle of Free Will

I'd like to thank Rod Dreher and Mark Shea for linking to this yesterday. It is the text of a talk given by Archbishop Chaput of Denver recently, and I think there is much in it worth reading and pondering.

One of the most important passages, to me, was this one:

"But part of the reasoning needed to convince man of his freedom must include reaffirming sacred history. And that must include remembering and retelling the fundamental choices made by Adam and Eve and Mary and Jesus and all the intermediate choices for or against God in that history. In hearing our faith narrated, it becomes recognizable as a history of choice, leading us to the present moment of choice, right here and right now. So the first requirement in regaining human freedom is to regain human history, to tell the human story as a chronicle of free will."

Why is that significant?

I recall this quote from C.S. Lewis:

"Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And, taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature -- either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other."

As Archbishop Chaput indicates, salvation history is the story of individual people exercising their free wills to choose God and His will, or to choose forever against Him. Cain chooses to murder his brother; Noah chooses to obey God's command and save his family. Jacob cheats his brother out of his inheritance; Joseph chooses to forgive and protect the brothers who plotted his death. Judith chooses to kill Holofernes and save her people; Jezebel chooses to try to kill the prophet, and dies in ignominy. Ruth chooses to remain with her mother-in-law and worship Naomi's God; Salome chooses to dance a man to death.

In the stillness of the moment of one choice, all heaven held its collective breath; the stars forbore to twinkle, to catch the Virgin's reply to the angel; and at her "Fiat!" the multitudes must have begun practicing the Gloria they'd sing just nine months later.

And her choice led to another moment of awful silence, another moment of choice, in a garden at twilight as our Lord accepted the Cup of His suffering and our salvation.

We sometimes stand in danger of forgetting that the story doesn't end there, nor does it end with the Resurrection, nor with the Ascension, nor with Pentecost. It doesn't end with the martyrdom of the Apostles, the fearless faith of the persecuted Christians of the early Church, the many sufferings endured throughout the centuries by those who have said "Thy Will be done,".....and meant it.

It hasn't ended despite the fractures of Christianity; it didn't perish in the Reformation; it managed to survive both the first and the second Vatican Councils.

This story, this "chronicle of free will," will not end until the last day. Right up until then, people will be choosing for good or for evil, for God or for His enemy, for Light or for Darkness.

And every hour of every day we are living out our own chapters in this tremendous story. The moments when we choose to be unselfish and kind, the moments when we remember to offer up our pains and sufferings and disappointments, the moments when we truly live not only as if we believe God exists, but that we can please Him with our tiny sacrifices, these are the moments, God willing, that will be recorded and remembered long after the sins and failings of our lives are forgotten.

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