In today’s modern society, we often hear the discussion on abortion, euthanasia, and other matters related to life as based upon one’s “choice.” Pro-lifers focus on the dignity of the preborn child in the womb, while abortion proponents refer to abortion as a “choice” left up to the mother to decide. In one sense, the abortion proponents are correct about there being a “choice,” but they don’t truly understand what this means.
Every single generation of human beings have faced the “choice.” It was for this that we were created. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in a place of perfect happiness, free from suffering, fear, sin, and death. The only stipulation was that they not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In recounting the story, most people remember this tree, which introduced death into the world, but few remember that there was a second tree in the Garden—the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 explains that after Adam sinned, God expelled him from the Garden of Eden “lest perhaps he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” As God promised Adam, if he were to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would die, so we come to understand that this tree, which through Adam’s disobedience introduced death into the world, truly is the tree of death. And so, we can see that the presence of a tree of everlasting life and a tree of death gave our first parents the first choice between life and death. It is this choice that follows all of us through every generation, and should be remembered as the “Test of Adam.” It is this choice that every single human being must face, and this choice can be seen in every generation and in every civilization.
DEUTERONOMY 30:15-19 SAYS:
Consider that I have set before you this day life and good, and on the other hand death and evil: That you may love the Lord your God, and walk in His ways, and keep His commandments and ceremonies and judgments, and bless you in the land, which you shall go in to possess. But if your heart be turned away, so that you will not hear, and being deceived with error you adore strange gods, and serve them: I foretell you this day that you shall perish, and shall remain but a short time in the land, to which you shall pass over the Jordan, and shall go in to possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both you and your seed may live.
Life and death, blessing and curse. These two sides, always at war with each other, are recalled by Our Blessed Lord when He spoke of separating the wheat from the chaff and the goats from the lambs. Consider the choice presented by Pontius Pilate after Jesus was scourged at the pillar. Three gospels—Mark 15:6, Matthew 27:15, and John 18:39—state that there was a custom at Passover during which the Roman governor would release a prisoner of the crowd’s choice. The Gospel of Mark identifies Barabbas as a revolutionary and a murderer:
Now on the festival day he was wont to release unto them one of the prisoners, whomsoever they demanded. And there was one called Barabbas, who was put in prison with some seditious men, who in the sedition had committed murder. And when the multitude had come up, they began to desire that he would do as he had ever done unto them. And Pilate answered them and said: Will you that I release to you the king of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him up out of envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas to them. And Pilate again answering, says to them: What will you then that I do to the king of the Jews? But they again cried out: Crucify him. And Pilate says to them: Why, what evil has he done? But they cried out the more: Crucify him. And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people, released to them Barabbas: and delivered up Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.
Thus, the choice for all humanity, the choice of Adam, is set before us. On the one hand, there is Jesus, the Blessing and Life itself, and on the other is Barabbas, the murderous representative of the curse and death. As we know, the Jews chose Barabbas.
But even the scene of the crucifixion itself is a full display of choice. With Our Blessed Lord bleeding and dying on the cross in the center, to His right and left were two robbers condemned to death. On His right was St. Dismas, and on His left was a thief named Gestas. Without realizing it, these two men stand forever as the representatives of the wheat and the chaff, the goat and the lamb, the blessing and the curse, life and death. Consider the following account from Luke 23:39-43:
And one of those robbers who were hanged blasphemed him, saying: If you be Christ, save yourself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither do you fear God, seeing; you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly: for we receive the due reward of our deeds. But this man has done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when you shall come into your kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to you: This day you shall be with me in paradise.
Gestas, the thief on the left, blasphemed and died. The thief on the right however begged Jesus’ blessing and was granted eternal life. This is the choice, as granted to us by God, ultimately to love Him, serve Him, and live, or to reject Him, curse Him, and die. This is the struggle faced by all humanity and made manifest in all civilizations.
Our modern age is perhaps the greatest manifest sign of this choice between life and death, blessing and curse. It is the focus of every moral debate and the mantra of every proponent of abortion. In one sense, they are right that ultimately, whatever they do comes down to this one choice. What they deny, however, is that choices have consequences.
Let us pray, as St. Dismas did, with sincere repentance and a cry for mercy.
Michael Hichborn is director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.