In Layman's Terms - Bob Sullivan

The night we might have died

By Bob Sullivan   

Each day is full of good and bad experiences. Some things are the consequences of a person’s actions, but sometimes there seems to be no obvious rhyme or reason as to why something has happened.

In those cases, some say it is all due to a person’s luck, such as the luck of the Irish, dumb luck, or just plain old bad luck. Luck is defined as something which happens by chance. Others say that good and bad things happen by mere coincidence. A coincidence is defined as an incident in which two or more things correspond in nature or in time of occurrence: “co-incident.” Some chalk it up to karma. Karma is defined as the sum of a person’s actions which decides their fate.

All of these concepts are contrary to Christianity. The Church has always taught that all good things come from God (Psalm 127, James 1:17). The Church has also always taught that all bad things, difficulties, and sufferings, are the consequence of sin, first of all original sin, but also the personal sins we commit (1 Corinthians 15:21, CCC 403 and 408).

While we cannot always identify the cause of something good or bad in our life, as Catholics, we cannot call it luck, coincidence, or karma. Saying something is either luck or coincidence is to fail to appreciate God’s blessing in our life or to fail to examine our conscience and think more deeply about something we said, wished, or did, which may have led to an unpleasant consequence.

“The faithful will abound with blessings, but one who is in a hurry to be rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20) We choose our punishment when we sin. With mortal sin, we choose Hell.

A Catholic cannot chalk anything up to karma. Karma is a Hindu or Buddhist teaching based on the non-Christian belief in reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the “universe” or some divine nature keeps a running total of one’s deeds throughout multiple lifetimes. This is extremely contrary to Christianity.

Do we believe in fate? It depends on your definition of fate. The Church has always taught that God has a plan for each individual: We are predestined for Heaven. However, due to free will, we each have the freedom to fully cooperate, fully reject, or partially cooperate and partially reject God’s plan for us. Therefore, if you define fate as God’s plan for you, then yes, we believe in fate.

The secular definition of fate is more like a mixture of luck, coincidence, karma, and other vague concepts. That is not the Christian understanding of fate. If we cooperate with God, we will go to heaven. If we choose to follow our own human will too much, we reduce our likelihood of going to heaven and we increase the likelihood we will choose to go to Hell.

I write about this because we had a very interesting incident in our home Dec. 29 and 30. The incident actually began several months ago, when we were repainting our hallway. In the process of painting, I unplugged our carbon monoxide detector and put it in a cabinet. Apparently, I forgot about it until Dec. 29, when we were doing some cleaning and reorganizing in our home. That’s when I noticed the carbon monoxide detector in our cabinet, so I put a new battery in it and plugged it back in.

Later, I noticed that the detector showed “44” where I had always noticed zeros previously. The manufacturer’s website said that readings below 70 parts per million were not particularly dangerous but that people begin experiencing symptoms with prolonged exposure above 70 parts per million. One of those symptoms is death.

The alarm sounded at 3 a.m. It showed a reading of 49. I was unsure if our detector was too old to work properly, but out of caution, I called Hastings Utilities who send a guy over very quickly. His detector confirmed a carbon monoxide leak.

Some people might say we are lucky. Others might say it was a coincidence that I plugged the carbon monoxide detector in, and it sensed a leak that very night. Others might suggest that someone in our family had been leading a good enough life to keep karma on their side or that the death of our entire family as we slept was simply not our fate this winter.

No. We were blessed.

Were we protected by our guardian angels or our patron saints? Was it the Holy Spirit? Was it all the prayers we pray, asking for God’s protection? Yes to all these, and more, both human and divine.

Did God’s plan involve my noticing the carbon monoxide detector on the 29th? Yes. That was His “Plan B” though, as his “Plan A” included the tree of life, not death by carbon monoxide poisoning. God is not only merciful, He adapts!

Therefore, I suggest that we should all cooperate with God’s “Plan B” for us so He does not have to come up with more and more plans to continue to offer us salvation. Make sure your carbon monoxide detector is plugged in and up to date. Make sure your smoke alarms and heat sensors are functioning. Wear your seatbelt and drive defensively. Eat healthy. Get exercise. Lock your doors. Pray for God’s protection and mercy every day. Go to confession regularly. Forgive everyone who has harmed you. Count your blessings instead of thanking lucky stars.

As for the Sullivans, we will not only strive to do all these things, we also get to install a new boiler in our old house. That is a “Plan B” type of thing. In the Garden of Eden, the weather was always perfect.

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