Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent


But you do not want to come to me to have life.


It took me a while, when I was in the first grade, to understand what Sister was talking about. It sounded like a free wheel and, for the life of me, I didn't think I had one. I only had a tricycle. Abstractions don't come easily to first-graders but apparently the Church thought the concept of free will so important they taught even six-year-olds about it.
There are philosophers who still don't believe we have, or should have, free will. All is determined  and might be mathematically predicted. Sociology, demographics, marketing, politics, geography, pharmaceuticals: there are many ways to predict human behavior. We're only playing out the whirling cycles of the universe. Even if we do make decisions they don't matter because the universe must eventually dissipate into endless, empty space.
Since time immemorial other philosophers and theologians ponder the mystery of human will. Writing his Letter to the Romans, (Chapter 7) Saint Paul was dumbfounded by his own rebellious nature which showed itself despite his intense belief in Jesus.
What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.
Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good.
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.
Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.
For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my membersRomans 7:15ff

There is really no solution to this mystery. As someone has said, "Life is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be lived." But this problem of my proclivity to evil when I am so persuaded of God's goodness -- it's staggering.
Philosophers have challenged the Christian doctrine of life after death with that mystery. Does Resurrection mean that we will no longer have that enigmatic free will? Will we be somehow incapable of anything except doing the right thing, always surrendering to God's Divine Will. And if so, what would be the point of resurrection? To have consciousness without free will -- without freedom -- practically defines Hell.
I heard it said of Cuba under Castro, that the people really didn't mind the free education and excellent health care despite their poverty. With Russia underwriting their corrupt government and perpetually failing economy, life wasn't terribly difficult. But they missed the freedom to grumble once in a while.
Blessed John Dun Scotus, the great Franciscan philosopher/theologian provided an answer. While we always have a choice of good and evil, obedience and disobedience, yes and no, we also have the choice of "not yes." I can see the right thing to do and not choose it without choosing evil. Sometimes, in the presence of God or a loved one, I need space for myself, a space to experience my freedom and ponder my choice. Rationality will not choose evil but it might hesitate before choosing good. 
You remember Andrew Marvell's complaint To his coy mistress who hesitated to accept his passionate love. He complained,"Had we but world enough and time this coyness, Lady, were no crime.... But at my back I always hear / Time's winged chariot hurrying near...."  
But we will indeed have world enough and time in the Bliss of Eternity, in God's ever-delightful presence where coyness will be no crime. Even now we treasure, taste, ponder and contemplate every facet of God's infinite goodness. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.