Friday, June 24, 2016

What God Called "NOT GOOD" in the Garden of Eden

What God Called, "Not Good" in the Garden of Eden

by Teresa Beem

God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness....So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them...God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:26, 27, 31
God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”... God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh....The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” Genesis 2:18, 21-23

The Godhead, in the first chapter of Genesis, looked upon the creation as good. And yet we see in the next chapter that at some point, God called it "not good" because man was not yet complete. Man was alone.

Man "Him," God "Us"

For our Protestant brethren who love the solas:
Masculum solum or man alone was not the intent of God. God, who scripture records as Trinity, declared,"Let us make man in our image."
In his solitude, man was not in God's image. Man's aloneness was not good. Man was, in fact, meant to be one like God, and yet that oneness was not alone. He was meant to have another like him, that with whom he could be united. And from that unity, he would truly be like the image of God, for man would be able to create in his own image. For when the two flesh of the man and women became one, children would be brought forth. In fact, that very oneness of both man and woman was the first commandment of God! 

Man, in his aloneness, was not capable of creating life. Man, in his aloneness, without another to help him, would live forever as the sole of his species. And with the other, and in their oneness producing children, mankind would be very like the Trinity.

How Was Adam Alone?

Surely God could not have considered man truly alone? God had filled the earth, the sky and the waters with creatures of all shapes and sizes. In fact, the more interesting thing is that God called Adam "alone" when He was there as Adam's
companion, speaking with him. Why would Adam be alone when God was there, in His presence? 

If there ever was a time when a man could reach out and say, "It is just Jesus and me" the Garden of Eden, before woman, was that time. And yet God did not consider a relationship between one man and God enough. God did not like the sola situation. Adam's solitary relationship to God without anyone else, was not good. Adam was not to have God all to Himself. The divine plan for Adam's relationship to God was never to be separate, individual and independent. 


If we wish to go even deeper, we can see that God gave man a woman. In scripture, a woman has always symbolized a church. Man was not just given a wife, man was given a helpmate to bring forth life. Mankind was given a church to bring life into the world. 
Eve: Given to Adam as "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh" completes the image of God in Adam. For as life-giver, she can truly make a Trinity of the one flesh. It is the necessary and life-giving oneness of man with God's Holy Church that keeps him from being alone. And this great mystery that St. Paul writes about in Ephesians 5, is what God pronounces, "very good."


Satan's plan is to take us back to Eden. But Satan's plan is to make us desire to be back to the point when it was just Jesus and Adam--the point that God called it, "not good." 

Many Protestants today are satisfied, if not overtly proud that their relationship with Our Lord is "just Jesus and me." They have rejected religion and the church believing that all they need is the Bible and that is enough. The Devil has seduced them with the proud propaganda of "independence" and individualism in our relationship to Him. But God said "It is not good for man to be alone." God
created us with the intent that we would be one with Him and in His likeness through the woman (the church.) Only then will our "one flesh" be life-giving and only then will we be to God, "very good."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Confession and Me

I want to be good. Not because I am a perfectionist, but because with utter clarity, I remember my mother kneeling with me and teaching me to pray for forgiveness when I was a toddler. And she cried--at my sins. That emblazoned upon my soul how what I did not only hurt me, but my sins hurt others. How could I go around hurting my precious, angelic mother?

And my personality-type clings to the generosity and promise of the Confession booth. Oh, how I love confession.

Because I absolutely, sincerely never want to sin, when I do, I tend to fall to my knees immediately and ask God's forgiveness. I want that dirty, icky, stain of sin off me immediately. So when I go to Confession, the feelings of deep sorrow, embarrassment, the feeling of humility or regret are usually long past. 

Yet, I understand that even if my sins have already been confessed straight to God, something miraculous happens in the Rite of Reconciliation. There is a divine and powerful grace that is given to me that I may be victorious when tempted in these areas again. 
I need the power and grace of the sacrament. And I love it. 

The day before I go, I begin praying God will call to memory the sins I want to confess. I jot them down so I won't forget. Then, waiting in  the confession line, I am more earnest in my prayers of facing myself, seeing myself through His eyes. And all of a sudden, I notice myself attempting to excuse my sins. More for my own uncomfortableness than God's. The more honest I am with the deep selfishness and pride I discover in those moments, the more I recoil at myself. 

Through His grace, those vulnerable moments  are becoming less and less protected by excuses. I pray God will give me the courage to refrain from whitewashing the dark tomb I look down with, "Hey, I'm only human," or "I don't think it was a big deal," or "Everyone does it." 

Christ knows my heart better than I do. I can't fool nor hide from His intimate knowledge of my sincerity or culpability. He knows how hard I try and how deeply I love Him. So, I lay it all bare without excuse. 
Then, that moment...... the Act of Contrition, I never fail to sob. In fact, my eyes are so full of tears, I have to stop and pull myself together and wipe my eyes so I can see to read the rest of the prayer. (I don't have it memorized, so I always try to take a copy of it with me.)
O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.

I firmly resolve,
with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins,
to do penance,
and to amend my life.

"You who are all good and deserving of my love." How can I say get such a line while kneeling in front of the Father without breaking down with emotion?

 So why is it so emotional? For me, confession strips me of my identity as the good girl! I am a rule keeper. My greatest sins usually have nothing to do with what I have done, though there are those things but the sins within my heart. 

What is so painful is that I must hear myself say aloud my failures. I am forced into reality.
When I wanted so badly to be perfect and wanted to hide my humanness from everyone else, my facade is stripped. I am left sitting there, infinitely tiny and defeated by the world.

God shows me that I am so much more sinful than I can imagine. In fact, I would give up in utter despair and commit suicide if I were left to see the darkness of my sins through His eyes without His aid in bearing it. For no sin is minor. Each of my tiniest sins put Jesus on the Cross. Oh God, to see that is more than a human can bear. 

For I am a child of Eve, submerged in the filth of sin. Bathed in a system that teaches me to be selfish. Indoctrinated from the time I was born to pursue my own desires. Force fed that I have a God-given right to pursue money, fame and power--that my life is given meaning by how successful I am at making my dreams come true, even if it means focusing only upon myself and dividing myself from others who love me. I am told I am more valued if I am young, thin, beautiful, highly educated, snarky and sarcastic. 

That I deserve to be accepted without questioning anything I do, that I should avoid people or environments that upset or irritate me. And that I should avoid upsetting others with the truth, remain silent and passive when encountering grave injustices with a pseudo-righteous excuse of non-violence, tolerate everything without judgment, mind my own business.

My world view has been forged in the fires of the hellacious spiritual seduction that I have a God-given right to decide for myself what is right and wrong, true and false. Except when it comes to the world's sins of environmental and animal injustice. Then I can be as obnoxious and hateful as I wish to be when I fight for these values. 

I have been told to have as much fun as possible, give into my weaknesses so that I do not experience difficulty or even uncomfortableness. And in the end, I should refuse to feel shame nor regrets as long as I am forging my own destiny with relentless individualism. The only thing worth suffering for is that pursuit of your dream. 
Therefore, my heart, mind and soul was cultivated and fed in the soil of this sickness. In fact, my mind is so small and steeped in sin, that I am unable to recognize my own stains. And in confession, that moment of clarity comes to me. And it hurts because I am ugly with sin. I am infinitely ugly.

I hate my stains. I wish to be clean. 

Then the words are spoken by the priest that Christ absolves me. I am washed in His word and I am clean. That moment, the moment I didn't even fully realize I needed, for I was walking around not seeing myself through His eyes. In that precious moment, I am clean. All of heaven and the eyes of the Most Holy one see me as perfect. The weight of the sin that God had allowed me to experience, so suddenly grown thick and deep and heavy when seen through His eyes is lifted. And supernaturally, I clearly see the New Me who walks out of that confessional booth. I am infinitely perfect. And I will cling to this beauty as long as I can. His grace has made me whole. 

Thank you God for Confession. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Catholic doctrine and tradition can be very confusing to Protestants. (And most of the time they are not aware of how confused they are.) I have sat through hundreds of hours of debate, even some in which I was involuntarily assigned the position of Catholic apologist, where I became frustrated because I knew that the Protestants were not understanding us. That is not their fault. It's like attempting to explain geometry using only algebra concepts or playing tennis using rugby rules.

Within a wrong framework, Protestants often try to judge Catholic teachings. Yet it is impossible to understand Catholicism through Protestant lenses. It simply cannot be done without distortion. Our verbiage doesn't translate, our worldview is different and while there is much we disagree on, there is more areas of agreement and our position is simply misunderstood. 

One of the most important areas of misunderstanding is in the sacrifice of the mass. I hear many Protestants wonder why we don't liven things up in church services, why do Catholics all have to say "amen" together? 

I have witnessed Protestant visitors in mass deliberately get chummy with their neighbors, cut up and comment aloud in order to witness to us fuddy-duddies about what heart-felt worship is. Can't we be spontaneous and real? What about all that horrible ancient music? It's too dark and depressing, why not have happy music? Why so solemn? Nobody seems friendly--lighten up already! Believe it or not, that seems like an easy question for a Protestant. But the answer is deep and rich and unable to fit into meme, tweets or soundbites.

Well then, let's talk... because these people are not understanding what is going on. While the subject of the mass is massive, here are four things Protestants should understand that Catholic Mass is not: 

1. Mass isn't about socializing.  

For Catholics, mass is a time for communion with Christ not socializing. Traditionally, Catholics socialize outside of church at our many, many feast days. Through the millennia we have certainly proven that we are a bunch of great partiers and love to socialize. We love dancing and wine. We don't demonize a little gambling here and there. We enjoy our cigars and cognac. Socializing is very important to us. We just separate our time to get to know or catch up with our neighbor from the time we worship Christ. (Which is a real problem in the US where we don't have a history of Catholic holidays where we do get to socialize.)

Catholics are more solemn and quiet when they entered the main seating area of the church. Protestants often 

misunderstand this as unfriendliness.
Catholics mass is not unfriendly, we simply have a different conception of what church is. 

While many United States parishes now have greeters posted in the narthex, the area that leads into what the Protestants call the sanctuary (and we call the nave) is supposed to be gate in which we enter heaven.
In the narthex, we are attempting to put our souls in a place of joyful reverence. We have come to meet the King to repent our sins, humbly beg for mercy and grace, receive not only His forgiveness and blessings, but to renew our intimate convenant as His Bride.

Once inside the nave, we are not there to kiss, hug, whisper to or greet our neighbor. We are supposed to quietly pray and prepare our hearts for the sacrifice of the mass. Nor are we supposed to talk at all until we are back outside in the narthex. (Boy, have we become lax with that rule.) 

While it is theologically the time that the entire Body of Christ is to worship in communion with each other, physically and spiritually we are to be silent in order to focus on worshipping the Creator. 

For Catholics who understand what is happening, mass is the holiest moments we shall ever have in our lifetimes on earth.

The Crucifixion is re-presented and we partake of the Wedding Banquet. We receive the food of heaven, 
the gift of the Eucharist that we may be one with Him, even as the Father and He are one. 

We join with Christ and take in us His Body and Blood, His Divine Nature. We participate in His Sacrifice, the breaking of His Body, that we may leave and go out sacrificing for others, breaking our prideful spirit, that we may share His life to others.  It is the only time in our lives that we can say we had an awesome time. For adorning God alone is awesome.  

2. Mass isn't about our preferences. 

The liturgy, the vestments, the decorations, the music, the bells and smells are not something a bunch of men at the Vatican sat around debating and voting for or against. We are not at mass to satisfy the pope or the magisterium's preferences nor our personal worship tastes. We are not there to experience diversity, share our opinions nor thoughts. We are there to learn to honor God and love what He loves. 

I know what many Protestants (and Catholics) are thinking. So what makes the Catholic Church so sure of what God likes in His worship? 

God made His preferences of how we are to worship Him known to the Jews and Christians dip from that well spring of knowledge. Our worship traditions were set in place by the Apostles and their successors in the first few centuries based upon what Christ told them as well as how God instructed the Hebrews. Catholic worship traditionally is supposed to resemble the Temple worship (only the sacrificial lamb is now Christ). 

But that's okay if you don't like the solemn ceremony, the music, the liturgy.

  • We don't have to like the traditional music of Gregorian chants--God does. 
  • We don't have to like the procession or the funny clothes--God does. 
  • We don't have to like the smells or bells or where the lecturn sits--God does.

The worship of God is not to please us but to please Him. We can surely put away our opinions and preferences for an hour a week.

Sadly for us, our Eastern Christian brothers have been more faithful in keeping out modern practices than the West. Those who attend Latin mass with Gregorian chants will get a better view of our history and what Catholic worship looked like in the early church. 

So often in the West, Catholics have attempted to copy Protestant worship in order to appeal to the modern tastes, which seems to never turn out well for us. Like when an opera singer attempts to sing hip-hop. It comes across awkward and indeed childish. We should stick with what we have learned to do well over the centuries. 

3. Mass isn't about entertainment. 

We are there under command by God to worship Him. Frankly, God doesn't care that we are bored. We are supposed to ask Him for the grace to bring us into the understanding of what is going on. 

There would never be a moment of boredom if we were to fully realize the powerful miracle of what was going on at mass: the supernatural shattering of time and space! In a sense we are all bi-locating and rewinding time for two-thousand years to

stand at the feet of the one sacrifice at the Cross. We are there at the altar experiencing the mystery of the unity of the church militant on earth, the church suffering in purgatory and the church triumphant in heaven as well as the angels and archangels--all there among us, worshipping. 

We are consuming the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ! Think of how that is sanctifying our spirits, our minds, our hearts, and our DNA! Christ in us! By imputation, by

infusing, by imparting, instilling, implanting, permeating, steeping and suffusing us with His righteousness--animating and enlivening our souls that have been beaten, broken, wounded, crushed and crippled in sin. 

As we grow in Christ and discover the deep mysteries of the Cross, our hearts and spirits will be drawn more and more to the mass. As we learn to walk in holiness by taking advantage of the graces of the sacraments, and reading about Catholic history and doctrines, our excitement will soar! (Need help with this watch anything on youtube done by Scott Hahn!)

4. Mass isn't about proselytizing. 

At least in the way Protestants think about it. We don't offer cards to guests to fill out making a pledge to Christ. We don't try and convince people with music and lengthy, emotional altar calls to give their hearts to Jesus during mass. 

Though historically, many of those who visit the sacrifice of the mass, experience His glory in the crucifixes, the reverence of the church, the Bible stories told in the stained glass windows, are drawn to His Holy gospel. Christ's presence is there and the Holy Spirit calls. 

Catholics most effective way of spreading the gospel is through their hospital and charity work, their universities and schools. It is through our
acts of charity and our daily sacrifices for others that best show the gospel of Christ. When one comes into a Catholic Church to pray or experience the sacrifice of the mass, it is usually the culmination of the seeds the church has sown in acts of love outside of mass. 

And indeed we are told in scripture that our coming together to celebrate the Eucharist is in its very act spreading the gospel. 

When you eat the bread and drink the cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until he comes again. I Cor. 11: 26.

Consider yourself Invited!

You are invited and most welcome to come to a Catholic mass. Just google a Catholic Church in your neighborhood. Just try to understand why we are different from Protestant Church. In mass, you should experience the Evangel. It will not be like a Protestant church service, as well it shouldn't. And that is not a criticism of the Protestant services. I worshipped with them for the majority of my life. 

Just know that mass is different. 

Very different.