Imagine one day that there’s a knock on your door, and when you answer there’s a little boy in a cub scout uniform. He’s pulling a wagon that has little paper cups with dirt in them. He says he’s giving away free tree plants and wondered if you’d like one. “What kind of tree?” you ask. He doesn’t know, but he’s told that it will grow to be big and beautiful. So you figure what the heck, it’s free, and there is a spot in the yard that could use a new tree. So you take one of the cups, and wish him a nice day. You water it and give it sunshine, and one day there’s a little green shoot poking up. More water and more sunshine, and you see leaves starting to form. Before long you see it’s a maple leaf, which is a good start, but you start to wonder… what kind of maple tree is it. After all, there are over 100 species of maple trees. Some are beautiful and hardy like Norway maples, but other ones, such as silver maples, are much less desirable.
So you start researching maple trees. You read some stuff on the internet, look at pictures, even buy a few books. Since your seedling has outgrown its paper cup, you transplant it into something bigger. Soon the seedling is sapling sized and you’re ready to plant it in your yard. You still don’t know exactly which type of maple it is, but you know which ones it’s not, and you know it’s worth keeping. Over the next few years, you become kind of an expert on maple trees, and you identify your tree as a red maple. The tree is growing well and gives you a great fall display of color. You don’t know where that little cub scout went, but you silently thank him for his gift every fall.
After some time, you have to move and leave your prized tree behind. You leave all your maple tree books and some caretaking notes for the next owners of your house and hope that they’ll take good care of it. Time goes by, and year after year the tree gets bigger and more beautiful, as one homeowner passes along your books — and additional ones — to the next owners of the house and caretakers of the tree. You drive through the old neighborhood now and then, especially in fall, to see your tree. Things in the old neighborhood have changed, as they always do. The houses get painted different colors, the landscaping changes, the cars in the driveway change, but each year your tree gets even more beautiful.
The Catholic Christian faith is like that maple tree. Like the maple seed, God knew from the moment of its creation what form it would take. Christ gave that seed of faith to his apostles to take care of it. They — along with the Church Fathers, the doctors of the Church, the saints, popes, and theologians — all gave it water and sunshine so that it would grow, and continue to grow. Slowly, over the centuries, the tree of our faith has revealed itself, and it continues to reveal itself and get more beautiful. That tree is the tree of truth, and it cannot change, only grow larger. You can no more drive past your old maple tree to discover it had suddenly transformed itself into a old pine tree overnight then our revealed faith can change its form. Yet since Adam, mankind has tried to change God to be the God we want Him to be, rather than embrace the God that He is, accepting both His infinite mercy and His infinite justice.
We live in a day and age when people routinely speak of “the old God, the angry God of the Old Testament” and say, “He isn’t like that anymore. He’s more loving and accepting now.” They speak about God like He has changed. Well, if He changed, then wouldn’t that mean He isn’t infinitely perfect? The fact is that a red maple tree is a red maple tree, has always been a red maple tree, and will always be a red maple tree. The fact is that there is still a hell and people still go there for all eternity. The fact is that God is God, He is infinitely and eternally perfect in all respects, He always has and will always hate sin, and what is a sin has not changed nor will it ever. The only thing that has changed is how much respect we give God. Either we believe that God is a God who deserves our love and respect and obedience in all regards… or we don’t.
All of our sins can be grouped into two basic categories: Either we sin out of weakness, the sin of Adam; or we sin with malice and take pride in our sin, the sin of Lucifer. For those who love and respect God, those who believe in and try to live by the eternal inerrant truth that our faith teaches, it is easy to become angry when people not just put their sin on display but take pride in it. It is easy to be furious when people try to change the infinitely perfect God into the God they want Him to be. But beneath the pride in their sin that they make so obvious on the outside, underneath it all, they are still created children of God, just as we are. And they need our prayers so that by the mercy of God they will someday realize that just as a red maple is a red maple, that God is God, and truth is truth.