As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane were the two gardens around which revolved the fate of humanity. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, Christ took humanity's sin upon Himself. In Eden, Adam hid himself from God; in Gethsemane, Christ interceded with His Father; in Eden, God sought out Adam in his sin of rebellion; in Gethsemane, the New Adam sought out the Father and His submission and resignation. In Eden, a sword was drawn to prevent entrance into the garden and thus immortalizing of evil; in Gethsemane, the sword would be sheathed.
He came to put a harlot above a Pharisee, a penitent robber above a High Priest, and a prodigal son above his exemplary brother. To all the phonies and fakers who would say that they could not join the Church because His Church was not holy enough, He would ask, 'How holy must the Church be before you will enter into it?' If the Church were as holy as they wanted it to be, they would never be allowed into it! In every other religion under the sun, in every Eastern religion from Buddhism to Confucianism, there must always be some purification before one can commune with God. But Our Blessed Lord brought a religion where the admission of sin is the condition of coming to Him. 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are ill.
The good repent on knowing their sin; the evil become angry when discovered. Ignorance is not the cause of evil, as Plato held; neither is education the answer to the removal of evil. These men had an intellect as well as a will; knowledge as well as intention. Truth can be known and hated; Goodness can be known and crucified. The Hour was approaching, and for the moment the fear of the people deterred the Pharisees. Violence could not be triggered against Him until He would say, 'This is your Hour.
He told them therefore that He was not a Teacher asking for a disciple who would parrot His sayings; He was a Saviour Who first disturbed a conscience and then purified it. But many would never get beyond hating the disturber. The Light is no boon, except to those who are men of good will; their lives may be evil, but at least they want to be good. His Presence, He said, was a threat to sensuality, avarice, and lust. When a man has lived in a dark cave for years, his eyes cannot stand the light of the sun; so the man who refuses to repent turns against mercy. No one can prevent the sun from shining, but every man can pull down the blinds and shut it out.
It was not enough that the Son of God should come down from the heavens and appear as the Son of Man, for then He would have been only a great teacher and a great example, but not a Redeemer. It was more important for Him to fulfill the purpose of the coming, to redeem man from sin while in the likeness of human flesh. Teachers change men by their lives; Our Blessed Lord would change men by His death. The poison of hate, sensuality, and envy which is in the hearts of men could not be healed simply by wise exhortations and social reforms. The wages of sin is death, and therefore it was to be by death that sin would be atoned for.
Very few people believe in the devil these days, which suits the devil very well. He is always helping to circulate the news of his own death. The essence of God is existence, and He defines Himself as: 'I am Who am.' The essence of the devil is the lie, and he defines himself as: 'I am who am not.' Satan has very little trouble with those who do not believe in him; they are already on his side.
Very harmful effects can follow accepting the philosophy which denies personal guilt or sin and thereby makes everyone nice. By denying sin, the nice people make a cure impossible. Sin is most serious, and the tragedy is deepened by the denial that we are sinnersThe really unforgiveable sin is the denial of sin, because, by its nature, there is now nothing to be forgiven. By refusing to admit to personal guilt, the nice people are made into scandalmongers, gossips, talebearers, and supercritics, for they must project their real if unrecognized guilt to others. This, again, gives them a new illusion of goodness: the increase of faultfinding is in direct ratio and proportion to the denial of sin.
Strong passions are the precious raw material of sanctity. Individuals that have carried their sinning to extremes should not despair or say, I am too great a sinner to change, or God would not want me. God will take anyone who is willing to love, not with an occasional gesture, but with a passionless passion, a wild tranquility. A sinner, unrepentant, cannot love God, any more that a man on dry land can swim; but as soon as he takes his errant energies to God and asks for their redirection, he will become happy, as he was never happy before. It is not the wrong things one has already done which keep one from God; it is the present persistence in that wrong.