We celebrate the two great deeds of God in our regard: creation and redemption. In creation He provides us all we need to be happy in this life, and to lead a life in His company, designedly and of set purpose, for ages unending. Or, at least, that was His intent in creation.
Due to unforeseen (?) circumstances, there was a change into plan B, and a new arrangement came into play called redemption. God was not to be outplayed in His dealings with us, and so He now has a backup, supporting program to help us where we fall short.
So as we listen to today’s gospel, we hear Jesus appealing to the natural endowments His Father has bestowed on us, urging us to be attentive to them. He notes our skill at predicting weather changes, based on the experience we have gleaned from doing so, thanks to the skills we have from His creative action in our lives. But then He pushes His point a bit further: why can’t we interpret the present time, what is going on around us? Similarly, while we have learned to develop ways and means of addressing arguments among us, why do we have to rely on these procedures since we should be able to judge what is right by dint of our own natural endowments?
So, the upshot of all this is that we have capabilities from our creation to produce a wealth of experience to handle many of life’s conundrums, but still some major hurdles bedevil us, and Jesus brings these to our attention.
Even more to the point, in today’s remarks of St. Paul to the church in Rome, we see him baffled by our penchant for willingness to do the right thing, but, when the chips are down, we fail to do so. We do the evil we’re dead against and omit the good we want to do. Even if we know ourselves well because we’ve taken the enneagram, there’s a portion of ourselves that escapes our control.
What we have here is the creative work of God falling short before the inroads of sin in our lives, setting the stage for the redemptive work of God to take over and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And Jesus is the centerpiece of this redemptive rescue mission, especially by His death on the Cross, which is the heart of God’s redemptive plan.
While the natural law woven into creation is a partial guide along the way (helping us to predict the weather and to KNOW right from wrong), it is the gift of grace flowing from redemption that can help us successfully conclude our passageway through life, so that what begins well, in the endowments we have from creation, ends well, in the gifts we receive from redemption.
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.