Thursday, October 15, 2009

Phil's Ponderings

Phil was a Theology Major at Franciscan University of Steubenville, then received his Masters in Religious Studies at Providence College, and is currently the Theology Department Chair and Morality Teacher at our local Catholic High School.
So, needless to say, he is a man of deep faith. He is a philosopher, a deep thinker (completely unlike myself!), and a wonderful example of a Catholic man. Here's what he has been pondering lately:
The Foolishness of God is Wiser than Man's Wisdom

A thought occurred to me. Or rather it developed. It seems that most things we complain about are of course the result of Original Sin. If we look to the book of Genesis we see the punishments that resulted from Original Sin. The woman was told that she would now bring forth children in pain (from what I hear, this seems to be the case). She was also told that the man would be her master (Gen 3:16). The man was told he must work to survive and that he would now die (Gen 3:17). A few points must be noted. First of all we must realize that these “punishments” are not arbitrary rulings handed down by God to teach us a lesson. God is not out to get us or make us sorry for the sin of our first parents. The punishments are better described as natural consequences to sin. When humans separated themselves from God, these punishments are the effect of that action. Without that union with God, we will all suffer death, have discord in our male/female relationships, work to survive, and endure great pain (physical and emotional) for our children. And so, most of our complaints are the result of Original Sin. We complain about our jobs, the hours we must work or the pay we receive. We have difficulties within our relationship with our spouse and must work hard to make them successful. We complain about the needs of our children. The effort it takes to have a child and to care for them is tremendous. And at some point in our life we will all suffer the loss of a loved one and ask God “Why?”

We may be tempted to say that we would do better if only God made it a little easier on us. However, the greatest effect of Original Sin is not found in these “punishments”. Our real problem comes from the fact that in our fallen state, we are naturally selfish and we do not love as we should. Before sin, God made us to love like him. We were called to give ourselves away for the good of another. But, as we are well aware, we tend to be selfish - to seek our desires and wants instead. And so, through all of our struggles, trials, and complaints we can see that the “foolishness” of God is wiser than our own wisdom.

First, we can consider why God would allow the relationship between husband and wife to suffer after Original Sin. For a marriage to be successful, it requires work, compromise, and sacrifice. We must learn to put another’s will before our own. We must be willing to swallow our pride and ask for forgiveness when we are wrong. We must be willing to offer forgiveness when we are hurt. We must sacrifice our own will because two people, who seek what they themselves want, will inevitably pull apart, but two people who give completely to the other will come closer together. Marriage is meant to be a path to love.

Next we can ask why would God permit there to be pain in child birth? Again, because it is a sure path to love. What happens to a mother who goes through 9 months of pregnancy followed by (what I hear is) an incredibly painful labor experience. What happens when parents spend their nights feeding/comforting a waking baby? What happens when parents spend their days cooking, cleaning up after, and shuttling around their children from one place to the next? What happens to parents who siege heaven day and night with prayers for their children who are beginning to seek their independence for the first time? The whole process, from morning sickness on, is a sure path to love. We are stretched to our limit and called to give ourselves completely out of a love for another. Being a parent makes us more loving by calling us to give up our selfish desires for the good of our children. It begins before they are born and continues for their whole lives.

The third effect of Original Sin to consider is why we must work to survive. The fact is that work is a necessity for most of us. So many of us must drag ourselves out of bed every morning and work long hours in order to help provide for our family. We may rather spend our days at home or on a golf course, but the necessity of work is also a blessing. For it is in our work that we can learn to give of ourselves and our time for the good of another. It is because of love that parents work to put food on the table or provide a good education for their children. Work teaches us to be selfless.

Finally, because of Original Sin, we all must one day suffer death. The reality of death causes some people great anxiety, but God can even use this “punishment” to lead us away from selfishness to love. For many people it is the reality that we all must go at some point that causes our selfish desires to disappear. If we never had to think about the end, we would always put off working on becoming a better person. But we realize that we are not living for this world, but for the next and so we the importance of love becomes more clear.

It seems that the things that are most difficult for us are often what is best for us. The path to heaven goes by way of the cross. It is our crosses that lead to a resurrection and God has allowed the cross of Original Sin to be the path back to Himself. The foolishness of God is in fact wiser than the wisdom of men.


  1. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog awhile back! We seem to have much in common--my husband has his Master's in theology also (from Ave Maria IPT) One question about your husbands the consequence of "work," it's my understanding that Adam and Eve worked even before the fall--but that it was not "toil" specifically. It was after the fall that work became toil, but that work always had a place in God's plan before the fall. I've only done a small amount of reading on this--some St. Josemaria Escriva homilies and such. Any comment on this? Am I misunderstanding it?

  2. Wow, you do have the dream husband, Colleen! (mine is a dream husband too: a carpenter) I loved the essay, he must fill your mind with wonderful ponderings every day...

  3. What a smart guy! Has he thought about getting this published?
    Love you all!

  4. The passage says, "Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat.

    The word "work" could be substituted in the essay with "toil". The point is that because of original sin, we now struggle and suffer to survive. It is not so much the fact that we must work, but it is the "toil" that helps lead us to be less selfish and more loving.

  5. Thank you for posting this. It was a great reflection.

    I especially enjoyed the parts about marriage and having children. With just starting out at these stages in my life, I really appreciate reading things like this which will help me keep everything in perspective.

    God bless you guys!

  6. This is just what I needed, and much of what I've been thinking about lately {though much, much more eloquently put}. Thanks so much for sharing, Colleen, you've got a special guy on your hands!

  7. This is great Colleen (I mean Phil)

    I really wish we had Morality teachers at ALL schools is a subject that is much needed.

  8. Phi;'s Ponderings are a lovely addition to your blog!


Talk to me...