Years ago, I sent out some "catechesis emails" to interested friends and family. They, like me, never really learned much in Catholic religious education and CCD classes. What I wrote was pretty basic stuff, and I thought some of the Bubble readers might like the overview. So, here is the first installment:
Hello everyone! First, I want to say that as I write this first overview, I am assuming that you are all convinced of the truth of Christianity. If you’re not yet convinced, you still might get a lot out of this, but it's not technically directed at you.
What I'm attempting is a very brief outline of salvation history (God’s relationship with man since the beginning of creation). There is, of course, so much more to it than what I am going to write today, and the way I say things may seem almost childlike. But this is sort of the “skeleton” and we can add the flesh later.
I want to also mention that if there is any error in what I say, it is not the error of the Catholic Church, but my own error. In all things concerning faith and morals, I defer to the Church. I do not ever want to present my own subjective opinion (Christianity is a revealed religion, based in objective truth, not a religion of what any person thinks or decides it should be). I only wish to pass on the unbroken teaching of Christ, through His Church; so, I always stand open to being corrected if I am misrepresenting the Church in any way.
We all know instinctively that there is something very wrong with this world. All the suffering and ugliness that goes on daily (just watch the nightly news) makes that pretty clear. We all see that there is incredible injustice, immense pain and suffering, and endless examples of man’s inhumanity to man. This “broken” world is the result of a separation of man from God, which happened with our first parents, Adam and Eve.
But let's back up.
God, Who is infinite, and Who has existed always, decided to create the world and all of us. He created purely out of love. Everything He created was good, and out of all creation, His masterpiece was man. We were created to be in friendship with God. I love how the Cathechism of the Catholic Church puts it:
Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator". He is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake", and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity. (CCC, 356)God is absolutely faithful, but unfortunately, we humans are not. Adam and Eve (our first parents) became prideful, deciding they could name what was good and what was evil for themselves. They committed an act of disobedience against God that broke their friendship with Him. Sin had entered the world, and with sin came death – remember, there was no death and no suffering up until that point.
(By the way, people often wonder why God would allow Adam and Eve to sin, when everything was perfect in the Garden of Eden. Later, I will discuss why God gave us the free will to choose sin. It is very powerful and beautiful, and you will see why it was absolutely necessary.)
After their sin, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden. They had “fallen from grace”, which means they killed the life of God (sanctifying grace) within them. Without this gift of sanctifying grace, they were no longer fit to live in the presence of God. Through their own free will choice, they had separated themselves from the friendship of God, and their lives became lives of suffering and, ultimately, death.
Though Adam and Eve’s actions showed their lack of love for God, God never stopped loving them. Even as He banished them, He promised, waaaaaaaay back then, to send a Savior one day to make things right again between God and man. (Genesis 3:15 is one of the most important and exciting passages in the Bible, but more on that later.)
The heaviest consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin? Essentially it was that the gates of Heaven were now closed to all mankind. Men had become sinners, and sin cannot exist in the perfection of Heaven (if it could, it wouldn’t be Heaven, right? It would be what we have here on earth, which is definitely no picnic!). So, through Adam’s sin, mankind lost the ability to get to Heaven.
I think I’ll end now, and let you chew on that for awhile. As I said, what I’m presenting is very basic stuff and the actual depth and breadth of it is infinitely deeper than this... but that is why God gives us a lifetime to delve deeper into His Truths. His Truth are accessible to the most humble peasant who cannot read or write, while also being inexhaustible to the greatest minds in the world, to such as a St. Augustine or a St. Thomas Aquinas, etc. Trust me, this stuff gets deeper and deeper and better and better, and God will take you as far as you are willing to go.
Told you it would be simple! Next, go to Part II: After the Fall