Part 2: Help imagining evil, too

Here’s the second point filling in what Fr. Rahner encouraged in exploring eternal life. Remember that Adam and Eve cannot imagine evil but they get help. This is about the help.

So here we find out what temptation is: imagining that there is some real, beautiful, desirable thing that I do not have – some thing that is right for me, personally – even necessary if I am to be “authentic” and "whole.”

So I am encouraged to believe that I have a right to it – even though my conscience suggests it is outside of my competence or commitments. But I am encouraged to believe that, if I am to really grow as a person, there’s something important for me to desire – and to take. This is the lie of the Liar – that evil knows what is good for me. And that I can decide instead of learning.

Adam and Eve were free to choose between what is good and what is not good. Here is the mystery of God’s immense generosity – He shares with a handful of mud, an ape, a temporary arrangement of evolving molecules – the divine gift of freedom.  So they are free and they choose – the lie.

Here we are, Adam and Eve’s children:  I am free to love a lie, if I choose to, if I want to – I can do what is not loving, not a loving deed, not done lovingly.

The temptation regularly comes to us from outside – from the media, the web, from enemies and even friends and family. It is woven into the structures of society and the economy: easy to cheat on taxes, convenient to just buy stuff not needed, almost impossible to feel personal responsibility for the homeless and the starving.The “news” on television promotes angers and resentments and distrust.

But temptations rise in ourselves. We imagine the things we meant not to do. We imagine how onerous and miserable doing the right thing will be. Our imagination has been filled with unloving, selfish, self-destructive images and desires. This starts as we learn language and are shaped by our culture and our family. I was prejudiced racially and in gender before I had reasonable control over my own self.

This is the mystery of iniquity as we experience it. I call it sin in the world, and sin in me  – I am as much sunk in this imaginary of evil as I am in earth’s atmosphere – I can no more get out of sin-in-the-world on my own than I can get out of earth’s atmosphere on my own – so I am bound, tied down, immersed in iniquity.

This is why we pray that God not lead us into temptation – we also pray, “deliver us from evil.” We are asking that God finally take us into the glory of eternal life with Him and all the other saints. We are also asking that God’s Holy Spirit set straight our own thinking, feeling, and desiring. Imagine if God would do that right now. What would be the first thing to get straightened out?