Lenten Rose in a winter garden (photo source unknown)
First Sunday of Lent,
As we hear the story of the Fall in Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7, the same question that God asked Adam confronts us: ‘Where are you?”
In a Hasidic story, an atheist persistently tried to catch the village rabbi in theological snares but always failed. One day the atheist asked, “Rabbi, is it true that God knows everything?” “Yes, my son,” said the rabbi, “God knows everything.” “Rabbi,” the atheist continued,” is it also true that after The Fall, God asked Adam, ‘Adam where are you?’ “Yes, my son, that is also true,” the rabbi replied. The atheist smiled, thinking that he had finally caught the rabbi in a contradiction. “But rabbi,” said the atheist, “If God knows everything, then why did God have to ask Adam where he was?” “My son,” said the rabbi,” ‘Adam, where are you?’ is not a question for information but for reflection.”
“Where am I?”, a perennial question of life, encompasses many other questions. What am I doing with my life? Does it have any purpose or lasting significance? What does it all mean? These questions and those like them distill into one haunting question: When I come to die will it make any difference that I have ever lived? This question takes on a more somber hue the older we become. And if we ask ourselves what we must do for our life to have permanent significance, the answer is so simple that it evades us. We must live the one, unique life that God has entrusted to us.
There is another Hasidic story about rabbi Zossimus, who tried all of his life to be like Moses, David or one of the prophets. His inability to achieve his goal frustrated and depressed him. One night in a dream, an angel appeared to him and said, “At the last judgement, God will not ask you why you were not Moses or David but rather, why you were not Zossimus.” God wanted Zossimus to do one thing—the same thing that he had asked Adam or Eve to do—tend the garden that was given to them and not to be deceived by unreality.
“And you shall be like gods!” Tending the garden that God has entrusted to us, no matter how humble, is no mean and insignificant enterprise, for it affords numerous opportunities to love.
Each of us finds ourselves situated at a juncture of time, space, and circumstance unique to us alone; we are entrusted with opportunities to love to which no one else has been assigned. An old saying notes that there are many occupations in the Body of Christ but only one vocation—the vocation to love. Love is our true work no matter what our task; it is the only thing that gives our life ultimate and lasting significance. Regarding love, “Where are you?”
~ By Marc Foley, O.C.D.
Wishing you all a very reflective and blessed season of Lent!