Sunday, July 22, 2012
St Mary Magdalene: Guilt, Evolution and Purity
Today is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, a woman whose reputation has suffered as much after her passing as before. At Mass in Rochester this morning, we were reminded that it is not good to speculate on other people's past sins, especially when it is not recorded what they were. We need to focus on her devotion to God and to emulate her humility and love.
If we should not speculate on the past sins of St Mary Magdalene, then we should be equally careful when we consider our own past sins, especially when we have confessed, repented and been absolved from them. We will still bear the scars of sins past which will haunt us if we let them. Yet do we use the memory of our sins to help us to be transformed by the love of Christ?
I believe firmly in Evolution. That's not to say that I can be certain that Evolution as THE way that things happened - no-one can. However, the scientific evidence is sufficiently compelling for me. Indeed further, the mechanism of Evolution is incredibly beautiful and, for me, actually provides further evidence of the existence of God who not only kicked the process off but wrote the rules for Evolution. There are still gaps in the theory, especially how puddles of amino acids managed to spark spontaneously into life: maybe we'll find out the truth, maybe we won't. With the discovery of a particle bearing properties predicted by the Higgs Boson, we can certainly find exhilaration that our theories fit the facts. It's worth exploring!
We must be careful of hubris though.
Evolution demonstrates that past actions dramatically affect the future. A moment's weakness in the past evolves gradually into the twisting and warping of lives, the tangling of the threads of our beings, our relationships and our views of the world. Species change, alter and adapt to fit the surroundings. Those that fail to adapt die out. Evolution implies growth, and that growth can be healthy or it can be malignant: it can allow us to grow fully into happiness or we can die out abjectly.
Thus it is that by failing to recognise our weaknesses and strengths in a spirit of honesty and reflection, we condemn ourselves to allowing our weaknesses to evolve within us and thus to twist our humanity into painful and grief-filled shapes which will remain part of us forever unless we allow the Eternal Gardener to prune the malignant growths out of our lives.
The other extreme is to become so aware of our sins that we wallow the guilt of them to consume us. We look at our tangled and twisted shape and believe that this is what we were meant to be, with no way out. Some Christians hold on to the guilt even after they have confessed and confessed and confessed. We do not allow ourselves to be forgiven. even if we are told so clearly that God does not desire the death of a sinner but rather that he might turn from his sins and be forgiven. To disallow God to forgive us is as much pride as denying that we have no sin in the first place.
St Mary Magdalene shows us the way out. Her redemption comes purely from her love and devotion for the Lord Jesus. Her sins are forgiven because she loves much. She does not have her future destiny in mind, nor does she desire to hang on to sins of her past. Her mind and heart are focussed on one person, Jesus. To be intently focussed on Christ is precisely what it means to be pure in heart. Indeed, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
That which is pure evolves purely. The memory of past sins may linger but, seen through a pure heart, those sins cease to have a negative effect, lessons can be learned without guilt and our lives seen to be untangled from that which seeks our destruction. All things work for good for all who love God. In purifying ourselves, as Mary Magdalene did, we shall see the truth and effect of the Resurrection of Christ and allow our lives to evolve around this, and after this life we will find our final form to which our evolution has been tending: full human beings in loving union with God in Heaven.