A Tale of Two Narratives: Weekly Message for 07-11-2023

Dear Friends,

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is God alone (Deuteronomy 6:4).

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, Sam asks a momentous question. In the Pass of Cirith Ungol, on the borders of absolute evil, he muses to Frodo “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?” That is, indeed, the question. What sort of tale have we fallen into? 

There are only two real answers. 

The first is one with which we’re all too familiar. Though subject to countless permutations, it goes something like this. “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high… I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14). This narrative slithers into human history in Genesis 3, when Satan asks, “Did God really say…? For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This narrative – Satan’s narrative – presents God as an untrustworthy dictator, an unreliable force who desires our subjugation, a slave-master who oppresses our freedom. In this narrative, we’ve fallen into a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The dots don’t connect; and it’s up to us to create our own individual meaning and truth. 

But that narrative is not the true narrative. Satan cannot create – he can only warp and twist. On the contrary, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). His creative Word gives meaning to chaos. “He saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Eternal truth exists, eternal meaning exists, and it has a name and face in the One who said “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Yes, creation fell into sin, but it is redeemed in Jesus Christ. We are redeemed in Jesus Christ. In him, the dots connect; in him, we discover ultimate meaning and truth. 

I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into… Which narrative undergirds my life? What’s the foundational narrative of existence, of good and evil, of truth and falsehood, of myself, of others? Is it God’s or is it Satan’s? These two narratives have enormous implications. The difference is literally the difference between slavery and freedom, between hell and heaven, between death and life. 

God’s narrative echoes throughout the ages: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Let’s remember that narrative; let’s live that narrative; let’s announce that narrative with our words, with our actions, and with our life. 

In Christ,

Fr. John Pietropaoli

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