The first sin of man, from which he needed to be redeemed, was fundamentally a rejection of his status as child.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is of course a symbolic representation of the decision to taste independence from God, for only adults, who are independent, know the difference between good and evil. In relation to God, man is always and everywhere a child. But the heart of man pridefully soared to heights that exceed the limits of his fragile nature, since then, the heart quasi-naturally soars in the same direction.
But Christ came to return us to that humble status: "Unless you change and become as little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18, 3).
The problem, however, is that people tend to see this directive as quaint, poetic, and inevitably regard it much less radically than it ought to be. But childhood is characterized by dependence. Children are radically dependent; they ask for everything, they want help washing their hair, or help getting a glass of milk, they want so much help with their homework that our help can sometimes amount to doing it for them.
Indeed, part of parenting is teaching children to become more and more independent. Adolescence is characterized by a desire for greater independence, even though they depend heavily upon parents and the adult world. Young adulthood is marked by the illusion and arrogance of independence, but as we grow older, we should begin to rediscover how dependent we've always been on one another; for independence in relation to one another is entirely relative.
Independence in relation to God, however, is simply impossible. To seek it is to sin, to live it is a prideful and audacious lie. Depending upon God on occasion — spiritual adolescence — seems to be the norm. But God directs us to rely on Him for everything, to be carried along like royalty. Unlike the parent who is of the same nature as his or her offspring, God does not demand that we become increasingly self-reliant. To be fully human is to rely fully on God.
Growth in the spiritual life means learning to become more and more dependent on God. It means learning to pray for everything, all the time (1 Th 5, 17). As a child pesters his parents, we are directed to "pester" God: "…persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants" (Lk 11, 8). The difference is that God wants us to persist and harass, because He created us to provide us with an ever increasing share in the good: "For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?" (Lk 11, 10-11)
As a child pesters his parents, we are directed to "pester" God.
Despite advances in medicine, we simply don't have dominion over health, and so we must pray for our health and the health of others. We must pray always for the success of our undertakings, pray when driving that we arrive safely. We must pray at the beginning of the day, during the day, in the evening, and at night. We must pray for the needs of those we encounter during the day, for it does not always occur to us to pray for those divine providence places on our path. We have to pray for our children, that they be given the gift of prayer, that they learn to love God, that they do well in school so as to be able to better serve God in the future, that they do not become attached to bad friends, that they be given the grace to resist temptation to choices that will scar them for life. Many parents have lost their children because they were very liberal in this regard.
Children have very little control. And there is so much that human beings simply have no control over. My mother used to remind me how all of us are really only one freak accident away from ending up on the street. A bump on the head from a fallen object or a car accident can change our entire life, causing us to lose our home, our job, and our livelihood.
But God is in control. And so we have to pray for protection, to remain grateful, and to remain thankful; and we have to pray that others be sent into our lives to help us. And we have to pray for our political leaders, that they do not lead the country into chaos.
God is not our equal. He made us dependent, and so our lives must be immersed in prayer. This is difficult to learn because of parental voices that continue to admonish us against being overly dependent. Those voices need to be ignored because those words are not His words. He says: "Stay awake and pray always" (Lk 21, 26).
Deacon Douglas McManaman. "Depending on Prayer." Catholic Education Resource Center (2006).
Reprinted with permission of Douglas McManaman.
Doug McManaman is a Deacon and a Religion and Philosophy teacher at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario, Canada. He is the past president of the Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. Deacon Douglas studied Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Waterloo, and Theology at the University of Montreal. He is the author of Christ Lives!, The Logic of Anger, Why Be Afraid?, Basic Catholicism, Introduction to Philosophy for Young People, and A Treatise on the Four Cardinal Virtues. Deacon McManaman is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center. Visit his website here.Copyright © 2006 Douglas McManaman
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