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The Cross is the Tree of Life

In the Baltimore Catechism we are asked, “Why did God make you?” The answer is “…to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.” However, in order to love, one has to be free not to love. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were to show their love for their Creator by not eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Satan tempted them to “be like God” and they ate, meaning they wanted themselves, not God, to be the ones who determined what was good and what was evil.

The enormity of this offense against God’s love was such that its consequences went beyond the worst natural disasters imaginable. The Fall altered the natures of plants and animals, brought suffering and death into the world, and an inclination to sin, or “concupiscence,” to man. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, or paradise, and prevented from re-entering by angels and a flaming sword so they would not eat of the Tree of Life and live immortally in such a wretched state. Then God promised a Redeemer.

Yet the desire to be God, to determine good and evil, and for an earthly paradise, persists. In our private lives, whenever we sin, we prefer our definition of what is good to God’s. During the French Revolution, in 1793, the goddess of Reason was installed on the high altar of Notre Dame Cathedral. One French revolutionary, Anacharsis Clootz, said there would be "one God only, The People." Similarly, Karl Marx wrote of creating an atheistic “workers’ paradise.” In the United States, God’s laws on, for example, chastity, marriage and abortion, are dismissed as subordinate to “individual rights.”

Since The Fall was a supernatural cataclysm, the way “back to the Garden” is not by natural means such as politics, or violent revolution, or air travel to a pristine South Sea island. The way back, to quote Cardinal Ratzinger, is “…to stop wanting to be God and to engage in a proper relationship with God… The cross is the Tree of Life… to eat of the Tree of Life means to receive the crucified Lord and consequently to accept the parameters of His life, His obedience, His ‘yes’...” (In the Beginning, 1986, page 76)

The Mass is where we encounter the Tree of Life. The Mass is the same sacrifice as at Calvary, but in an un-bloody form. The Mass is the sacrament through which Christ mainly dispenses the graces He won for us on Calvary. There, in the Eucharist, Jesus offers himself, true God and true man, and the sufferings of His Mystical Body, the Church, to His heavenly Father, in expiation for our sins. We avail ourselves of the graces of the cross when we partake of the “fruit of the Tree of Life” at Mass.

Jesus said to His disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” How do we follow Him? We follow Him by expressing sorrow for our sins (contrition or repentance). We follow Him by thanking God for allowing us to receive Him, the “bread of life” in Holy Communion, and redeeming us, recalling the words of St. John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We thank Him for our material and spiritual blessings. We follow him by asking Him (supplication or petition) to help us and others with our spiritual and material needs. We follow Him by acknowledging our utter dependence on God (adoration or worship), and joining our sufferings and sacrifices with those of Jesus, offering them to God the Father in expiation for our sins and the sins of others: “Not my will, but Thy Will be done.” (Luke 22:42) So, if someone should ask, “What did you get out of Mass?” one can answer, if one was attentive and prayed at Mass, “My hope is that I received the graces to conform my will more closely to the Will of God.”

The path to eternal life leads through the cross. Fr. Tilmann Pesch, S.J., put it this way: “God gave Himself to us on the Cross; He will give Himself to us forever in Heaven. Now, in the darkness of faith, and on that road which leads me from the Cross to Heaven, God gives Himself to me in the Holy Eucharist… Love urged Him to sacrifice Himself for us; we, led in our turn by love, must offer ourselves to Him in sacrifice.” (The Christian Philosophy of Life, 1909, page 514.)

Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote that “…human beings who deny the limitations imposed on them by good and evil, which are the inner standard of creation, deny the truth. They are living in untruth and unreality.” Your station, by bringing the truth to anyone who cares to watch and listen, is bringing the truth that will lead to eternal happiness. Please support it by telling others, by volunteering, through prayer, and if possible, your ongoing financial support.

Blessed Easter!

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