The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. Genesis 2:17
I have spent a lot of time reflecting over the past year on the Fall of Man and the chaos it brought into God’s ordered world.
As written about before, there were four commands God gave in the garden;
- Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 1:28
- Have dominion over the earth. Genesis 1:28
- Don’t eat the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17 (Eve received this command through Adam)
- Cleave to one another. Genesis 2:24
In looking at the 4 command’s it seems only one of them is a “don’t,” a negative command. The other three are positive and Adam and Eve are receiving great gifts from them. They receive Dominion or Authority over the earth, they receive each other, and they receive children. The only command where they seemingly didn’t receive something is the one where they were told don’t eat from the tree. What was death? They knew nothing of it. Little did they know that if they eat from this tree, the death God spoke of, what they would receive, was evil.
Why? Why did God give this command in the first place? This is the command where we see God trying to teach us what True Love is. This command required their total free will’s consent, and required what would be considered a sacrifice for a reason unknown to them. They could not foresee what would come from obeying or not obeying this command in a way that they could see the fruit of the other commands. By God allowing them to choose, He was teaching them true love. Because love isn’t really love if it isn’t made with total consent of the will.
And they chose to sin. They did not make the small sacrifice for love of God, the bearer of true love. They ushered the evil they could not foresee into the world by disobeying. But God did not leave us bereft. He sent us His Son to restore all of the things God had given us, most especially to show us the restoration of true love, by giving us the ultimate sacrifice.
And I started to wonder, why did God send Christ as a child? He could have just sent Christ the way he sent Adam, as an adult, and formed Him any way He wanted. Why send a babe? And it was as if in that moment God whispered to me, “because I wanted to restore innocence and I wanted your cooperation. Free will’s cooperation with true love.”
And then the Lord showed me just some of the verses that speak of children;
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3
If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6
God sent His own son as an innocent child. God shows us here what a gift children are by sending his only son as a vulnerable child. And in this case, this innocent child who grows to a man that sacrifices his life brings the Salvific Grace to save His own earthly parents, one even before she was conceived. And from the free cooperation of her will and the pure womb of Mary our Salvation came.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote;
“The mystery of God’s maternal love is expressed with particular power in the Hebrew word, rahamim. Etymologically, this word means “womb” but was later used to mean divine compassion for man, God’s mercy.” – Jesus of Nazareth: Part I Pope Benedict XVI
The womb is mercy. Mary’s womb brought forth the Innocent Child Jesus, who is MERCY. Could it be that children teach us true love and mercy? What a shame that as a culture we have made it legal to murder what the true love of God brings forth. It is we who corrupt and even murder our children, when all God wants to call us to is purity and true love.
And in this reflection on the Innocent Child Jesus we can also reflect on the Eucharist. The child Jesus reminds us of the Eucharist. The humility of God becoming man in the Incarnation and the vulnerability of the child Jesus. He had to rely on his earthly parents to protect Him in this world. The same is true for the Eucharist. The humility of God to present himself to us in the form of bread and wine. He places Himself in the protection of the Priest, and in our hands as well as granted through the authority of the church. This always makes Him vulnerable. What a responsibility we have, particularly the Priests, to protect Him, to not abuse Him. Do we know who it is we are receiving?
God continues to be vulnerable to us by promising to be truly present in the Eucharist until the end of time, even though he knows abuses will happen. When we present ourselves to God at Mass, we must rid ourselves of all pride, humbly standing before Him, open and ready to receive this great gift. This exchange deserves our utmost respect and gratitude as the King of the Universe humbles himself, giving us his flesh and blood, in order to heal and save us from our sins. It is when we humbly bow before him and receive him with a pure and contrite heart, like a child, that we are blessed beyond measure.
So we must become humble like little children, innocent and pure, and through our Savior in the Eucharist we are to become living sanctuaries of God bringing his light into the darkness of this world. Though we cannot see God except in the accidents of bread and wine, we can foresee the fruits of His goodness when we receive in humility; we have seen it in the Saints. Conversely, when we receive in a state of grave sin we also have seen the fruits, for it was after he received that Judas had a demon enter him. But for the contrite heart, the humble heart that seeks purity and seeks love, God in his omniscience places Himself in our hands ensuring that His heavenly hand has a presence in this world; guiding and protecting where we are lacking in a way that is unseen by the human eye. We must remember there is great hope and trust in the Lord.