‘Child,’ said Aslan, ‘did I not explain to you once before that no one is ever told what would have happened?‘
The irrevocable nature of human actions is one of the great themes of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The context of this quote is that Lucy has just spied on her schoolmate using magic, and now she cannot forget the gossipy words her friend spoke about her in a moment of fear. We cannot forget what we have seen or heard. We cannot change the past. For most of us, this is a terrifying realization that can make us lose sleep and peace of mind, depending on our past. We all have memories that we wish had never happened or, at the least, that we wish we could forget.
On a supernatural level, the irrevocability of past evils committed and good actions left undone (what I have done and what I have failed to do) are even more disheartening. Our human actions can have eternal consequences. Looking back at our lives we can identify moments when a better choice could perhaps have led to a more virtuous life. Sometimes it seems that if we had acted for the good at a few key moments in our lives we would now be saints. “It seemed to him at that moment that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage.” These thoughts of Graham Greene’s whiskey priest are our thoughts if we honestly look at many of the incidents of our past.
So, what hope is there for us who have sinned? We have hope in God’s mercy because “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Rm 5:20). God’s answer to all our sinfulness is the cross. This must be our only answer to the many reasons for our despair. Despair would be the only ‘right’ answer to the pain and horror that is our sin, if we did not have the assurance of the love of God as demonstrated by His Incarnation, death, and Resurrection. As St. Faustina writes, “I am looking with one eye at the abyss of my misery and baseness, and with the other, at the abyss of Your mercy, O God. ” This is the only way of looking at the world without falling into despair or presumption: with one eye on our lowliness and the other on God’s goodness. Without Christ, what would be the point? With Christ, it is all worth it.
Instead of falling into despair when we think about what we could have been or what we should have been, we should instead look at Christ and hope for what he can make of us. Look at the beauty that God has made of the sin of Adam: Jesus Christ. God has taken an infinite offense and made it into the means of our salvation. He has brought greater good out of our evil than we could have ever imagined! God has done this not only for humanity as a whole, but for each one of us. He will do it again. Instead of viewing our past sins as actions that have halted God’s work in our lives, we can see them as giving God more reason to work in our lives. We will never be what we could have been had we never sinned, but we know that the God who makes all things new can make of us a new creation.
Image: Hieronymus Bosch, Triptych of the Garden of Earthly Delights