The Secret Power of Saying "Yes"
Being perfect sounds nice. Think about it: Who wouldn't want to know exactly what to do, to be in total control of their abilities and situations, and to never have to say they were sorry. A perfect person wouldn't need to go to confession and could strut into heaven because... well.... they are that good.
Sounds nice, doesn't it?
It tempts me.
Now imagine if someone offered you a chance to achieve this level of power. No fuss, no incantations, no connection your brain to a computer. All you have to do is to take one little bite of fruit.
Would you do it?
Eve wanted to.
Become like God
To be honest, we want this as well. How can I tell? Commercials.
How many advertisements market a loving family financial security, a sense of confidence, allure and competence? Yes they might be selling a car, or mutual funds, or clothes, but deep down what the message is:
"Buy this and you will look attractive."
"Play this game and you will be powerful."
"Only the smart people use this kind of phone."
"You didn't sleep enough last night? No problem, just drink this!"
Our culture has come a long way from the Garden of Eden, but deep down we are still looking to become like God. We want to control our situations and our environments. We want to shape our lives in our image and to "have it all." We have the same aspirations as Adam and Eve did and even a few more. It's just that we're trying to fill them with credit cards instead of apples.
Or Apple instead of apples.
But what are the consequences?
Well, for Adam and Eve they were sin and death. As well as the surprisingly tragic need to wear the skins of one's former companions as clothes.
And our consequences haven't gotten better. Trying to become more by buying more has done amazing damage to the planet. Humanity now has to face impending climate change and the loss of natural resources. Entire species have gone extinct because of human economics, not to mention the human impact of sweatshops and slavery. These are tough problems and they only get tougher when we consider the fact that we have the capacity to engineer our own destruction in mere minutes.
Ultimately, the consequences of our actions are still bitter like wormwood, a plant whose hebrew name translates into curse. And, like Eve, that is exactly what we have: the curse of sin.
Breaking the Curse
OK. That last section was tough.
Here: have a baby elephant picture to brighten your day.
Are you ready for some good news?
There is still hope.
Humanity fell because of the choices of Eve and Adam, but humanity was redeemed through Mary and Jesus. Jesus demonstrated God's mercy on the cross, mercy for us, and mercy for all sinners including Adam and Eve. Death becomes life and gives us hope.
And in the mysterious ways of God, Eve is consoled.
A few years ago I was browsing the internet when I came across a delightful painting.
To be honest, I never imagined Mary consoling Eve. I didn't think about Eve being in Heaven. If Eve was, I thought she'd awkwardly stand in a corner hoping that nobody would ever notice her. But, I bet God and Mary would approach her. Mary is our heavenly mother and she, like God, wouldn't ignore any of her children because of their sins. Especially Eve. God's mercy has no limits and Mary is eager to share it with everyone.
The way the picture is framed got me thinking about how Mary and Eve are mirror opposites of each other (or foils if you want to use the fancy literary criticism word).
For example, there are many similarities between the women:
- Both Eve and Mary are humanity's mothers.
- Both Eve and Mary faced important choices from angels (fallen or otherwise).
- Both Eve and Mary had their sons die before them.
- Both Eve and Mary were special.
But there's one difference:
Eve wanted to become like God. She and Adam ate the fruit to "be like God, knowing Good and Evil." (Genesis 3:5).
Mary was content to be herself. She (like Jesus) refers to herself as "God's servant" and gives God permission to do whatever he wills (Luke 1:38).
This is a remarkable difference between the two women, for as my favorite doctor notes:
"Eve sought the fruit of the tree (of good and evil), but she did not find in it.. Everything Eve desired, however, was given to the Blessed Virgin. Eve sought that which the devil falsely promised her, namely, that she and Adam would be as gods, knowing good and evil. ... Eve was not made like God after having eaten of the fruit, but rather she was unlike God in that by her sin she withdrew from God and was driven out of paradise. The Blessed Virgin, however, and all Christians found in the Fruit of her womb ... are all united to God and are made like ... Him." St. Thomas Aquinas, "On the Hail Mary" (emphasis mine)
Overall the big difference between Eve and Mary is whether they conformed themselves to God's will or went against it.
The First Disciple
Mary really is a simple woman. Mentioned a handful of times in the Bible, she never steals the show from her son. She isn't a woman who uses her divine connections to flaunt around wealth, or power or fame. Her last quote directly references her son and is simply: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).
And yet, Mary is the greatest of the saints. She is the First Disciple, the Queen of Heaven, the one who is "more spacious than the heavens." She is one of the most famous women to ever live. And what did she do?
She simply said yes.
Mary says yes. That's all she does. She consciously chooses to follow God's will. And look at what God does with that one simple answer.
God renews humanity through Mary's yes.
God shows the fullness of his love through Mary's yes.
God reveals the extent of his mercy through Mary's yes.
God gives us himself through Mary's yes.
And now God comes to us, wanting to be with us. He offers us a very simple question: "Will you follow me?"
Are you scared to answer it? Well, to be fair, this question is the deepest one we will ever face.
Saying yes to God is hard. Saying yes to God when we're surrounded by a culture of delayed commitment and entitlement is even harder. But this one choice is the key to living a Christian life. God created us and wants to draw close to us. He yearns to be with us. All we have to do is to say yes.
How do we say yes? Well, there are many ways. St. Francis built a church. St. Kateri Tekawitha bore her suffering well. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati climbed mountains. St. Therese of Lisieux entered a convent. St. Philip Nieri played practical jokes. St. John Paul the Great held a Koala. There are many different ways as there are people.
But how do I say yes? Well, be the person God created you to be.
Now, i will admit that last part was rather vague, but we can get more specific:
First, receive the sacraments regularly. Become one with God at Mass, let him love you through Confession. Let God inspire you with Confirmation, and do be afraid to seek him through Marriage or the Holy Orders.
Next, Pray. Yes, prayer is hard, and everyone struggles with it. But still make time for God. We discover who we are and what we were created for through prayer, and it is vitally important. If you're looking for tips, here's a book, a blog, and a video.
Finally, let Jesus interrupt you. Be open to the Holy Spirit. Start looking for the moments when God is calling you to act. Perhaps it's giving a stranger a helping hand or a kind word. Perhaps it is saying "thank you" to a parent or a younger sibling. Perhaps it's taking time to savor a good conversation or a meal with a friend. Let God come into the small moments in your life and let him surprise you.
Overall, the more you let God into your life, the more he will do with you. Do not be hesitant to give greatly to God. Do not hesitate to let him into your life. Say yes. Put out into the deep. Cast your nets. let God work with you and be amazed with what he does.