I heard Father Mike Schmitz a couple of days ago on the Catechism in a Year podcast, (which I highly recommend!) speaking about Secondary Causes. I understand, sort of, Thomas Aquinas’ argument that God is the Primary Cause and we are the Secondary Cause, or one of them, because there could be an infinite number of secondary causes.

A basic explanation of the First Cause and Secondary Causes can be found here. But I want to consider myself, and you, dear reader, as the Secondary Causes that we are. See, God is so magnanimous (displaying His greatness and goodness) that He gives us the dignity of acting on our own which allows us the amazing opportunity to cooperate with the Divine!

That freedom is what we mean when we talk about free will. We are given the freedom to cooperate in God’s plan. But, on the flip side, we can decide to not join God in what He is doing. To quote the Catechism, “God thus enables men (every human person) to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors (everyone).” The words in parentheses are mine for clarification or to remind.

So, as Father Mike is so fond of saying, “That’s incredible!” And he’s right again! Imagine when you were a little kid that your mom or dad was doing some ‘grown up’ task and permitted you to be a part of the effort. What comes to my mind is that memorable and hilarious scene in the film, A Christmas Story, when Ralphie is allowed to help his “old man” change a tire. It is one of the most amazing moments in that young boy’s life, a real honor! Maybe, just maybe, his dad is beginning to think of Ralphie as an adult!? Ralphie is excited and nervous, finding the whole experience “incredible!” Of course you know, if you’ve seen the movie, (spoiler alert!) Ralphie drops all the tire’s hardware in the snow, in the cold, dark night.

And that’s the same ‘chance’ God takes when He permits us to cooperate with His creation. God does not require our assistance. God does not need us. At all. But He wants us because He loves us. And He loves us SO much He wants us to join Him in the work of Creation and Salvation. That exquisite free will comes into play and we have those moments when we get to decide. The most important thing we can do, other than say “yes” and work diligently and reverently with God on the work He has deigned to let us do, is to gratefully accept this freedom.

Sometimes we can mess things up, like Ralphie. But when we fall, the God who loves us more than we could ever know lets us try again! We rise, we brush ourselves off, we accept the consequences of our actions, seek forgiveness (which God always gives; He’s waiting for your repentance), and we begin again.

God knows our hearts, our frail humanity, and that we are broken, though He made us “very good.” I am sure that God knew we’d fail Him, the first time and on into the future. But He made us anyway. He loves each of us into being and waits for us to love Him back. And He doesn’t even just wait. He seeks us out.

He’s calling to us all the time, scanning the horizon for our return, and loving us all the time, even when we don”t show up. See the parable of the Prodigal Son for a great depiction of God’s love for us, and His mercy.

But back to Secondary Causes. God could have done it all Himself. How boring. How uninspired, and unoriginal. Who wants a world full of automatons who can’t think for themselves or love or try again and again?

I am grateful to be a Secondary Cause. And I find it incredible that I get to cooperate in completing the work of Creation! There is only One who created something out of nothing. There is only One who sustains every atom that ever was or ever will be. There is only One who loves us and who is Love!

Let’s be the best Secondary Cause we can be, thanking God for being here, lovingly gazed upon by the Creator of the Universe and all it contains every moment of our existence now and forever. Amen.

2 thoughts on “The Secondary Cause

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