We are reconciled to God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. This sacrifice was effected through the great suffering of His earthly body. We participate in His sacrifice at Holy Mass, and through joining our own sufferings to His through the intentions of our prayers, fastings and almsgivings.
The sacrifice of Christ was the fulfillment of the Law, as we have examined. It served to reconcile fallen man to God. Sometimes the question arises- If man had not fallen, would Christ’s sacrifice have been required?
As with any hypothetical question regarding God’s actions, I am inclined to deny that there were multiple possibilities, and the reason is that God's will is perfect, and therefore no alternatives exist. But let’s take this hypothetical question apart.
And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:27]
In the Garden, man was in paradise. Adam and Eve dwelt in the garden in the presence of God, and all was good. Let’s say things had stayed in this state. As there was no fall, death did not enter the world. That would have been blissful, but would it have effected the purpose of God? I propose it would not, because the purpose of God is for us to be united to Him through the person of His Son. We can speculate all we want that God could have done this in some other way, but what we know is He did do this in a particular way, albeit to us it has an appearance of imperfection. I want to show that this is not the case, it is our own selfish idea which springs from our dislike of suffering.
Lucifer was the highest amongst the angels, whose pride caused his fall. He was cast down to earth, which I suspect means the material world, along with the angels who followed his lead, 1/3 of the angels we are told. Lucifer’s fall was caused by his unwillingness to give obedience to man. As we’ve previously discussed, this was insisted on by God because He was going to be incarnated as a man, although this plan was not known. Lucifer became known as Satan, the adversary, or the devil, or the serpent.
God placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden. When He issued the command to the man and his wife not to eat of this tree, He did not expect them to be tempted to disobey Him without the influence of the serpent. Eve’s answer to the serpent reflected her trust in God.
Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods,* knowing good and evil. [Genesis 3:1-5]
*The phrase “you shall be as Gods” here in the Douay comes from the Hebrew “Elohim” which is the plural form of God. Essentially the serpent tells Eve that they should be as God.
There was a trap here, but here is my contention. The trap that was laid was God’s. The creature who was really tempted was the devil. God knew that the devil wanted to deceive Eve. So He used it to His purpose. We are told that God works all things to His purposes. Knowing that the nature of this fallen angel was to undermine His authority, He tempted him to do just that.
Canst thou draw out the leviathan with a hook, or canst thou tie his tongue with a cord? [Job 40:20]
And the devil fell for it. In a way, he was correct. When the woman and the man ate of the fruit of the tree, they became as God, but not in the sense of knowing good and evil, as if they were granted some mystic knowledge. When all was said and done, they would be as God, in that they would share, with Him, a suffering human nature. And this is that nature we find ourselves sharing today. And we fail insofar as we don’t see that this suffering nature is meant to effect the greatest good, even greater than the bliss of the garden of paradise. This greatest good is communion with Christ and becoming one Body with Him. This will effect our union with God in Eternity. This is the greater plan of God.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.