We were so blessed to spend part of Spring Break at Ben’s family cabin outside of Denver. We were there for 6 days and had a lovely time, even if the little boys were struggling to sleep between runny noses and the altitude. It is such a joy to be able to share this cabin with our kids. Ben’s family has old films of the cabin being built by his great-grandparents and their children. The cabin has since been expanded upon, improved and maintained by the whole extended family. It is a work of art and a bit of a historical record for the family.
Nothing happens by coincidence and I am unsurprised that before arriving at the cabin, I wasn’t sure what to talk about for this week’s video. I was drawn to the conversation Jesus has with His disciples at the start of the reading about whose sin caused the man’s blindness – his or his parents? This tied into a question I reflected upon in my Bible Study about generational sin. Then, I found myself at this generational cabin. The generations it is, even if it can be an uncomfortable topic.
We know, as Jesus tells us, that afflictions like blindness are not caused by a family member’s sinfulness. Children do not receive the spiritual punishment that their parents or grandparents earned through their wrong choices. We do, however, still pass on many things from one generation to the next. These can be big, serious things, like alcoholism, mental health struggles, perfectionism, abuse, gambling. They can be littler things like leaving dishes on the counter, staying up late reading, sleeping past alarms, forgetting to water plants, etc. They can be fantastic things like diligence in going to Mass each week, following the Lenten fasts, cleaning up each night before bed, having a prayer routine, putting clothes away once they are folded, calling parents, grandparents, and other family members on a regular basis, etc. I’m sure you have come up with some of your own ideas.
In the nature vs. nurture conversation, there’s a lot to be said for the nurture side of things. We receive a lot. We give a lot. This then begs the following questions:
- What have I received that I appreciate, use, and has helped me become a better person?
- What do I wish I hadn’t received?
- What have I given to my children, nieces, nephews, coworkers, or friends?
- How is what I am giving helping them grow in holiness?
As if this wasn’t enough, while I was recording I found myself starting to veer off this topic of generational sins and gifts and reflecting on the cause Jesus gives for the man’s blindness:
Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.John 9:3
The suffering isn’t a punishment. That’s almost as hard to swallow as the notion of generational sin.
As humans, we like cause and effect. X leads to Y. There was a sin, a consequence follows. Wrongdoing is followed by negative consequences, i.e. suffering. The Jewish people had experienced this many, many times. The people refused to enter Canaa and none of that generation was allowed to enter the promised land. Their descendants had to wander in the desert as the consequence of their disobedience (See Numbers 13-14 for the story). The same thing happens when the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah are overrun and taken into exile. The people rebelled against God, forgetting their side of the covenant. As a consequence, they and their children suffered.
Jesus tells us this type of transactional causes for suffering no longer rules the world. He has come, and He bears the punishment for all of our sins. For what purpose, then, does suffering occur? Jesus tells us in our Gospel that even suffering can be used for God’s glory. Put another way, I can think of no better answer than this clip from Season 3 of the Chosen. I hope you take the time to watch it, even if you chose these 6 minutes over mine that is linked above.
If suffering is something you struggle with, either your own, someone you know, or a suffering that has been passed through your generational story, I would encourage you to read the book, When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding, by Jeff Cavins. It is a beautiful and gentle book about suffering and how the Bible can help us better understand, accept, and then use suffering to participate in God’s plan for our lives.