Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Elizabeth Scott of a suburb of Dallas, has an autistic child, but you would never know it. Born with Pervasive Development Disorder, little Roman began to show signs of withdrawal and fixation that are so typical of the autism syndrome. After three years of literally bath-time to bed-time intensive behavioral therapy in the loving hands of his mother, the boy no longer tests on the autism spectrum. He and his mother appeared this morning on Good Morning America.

Yet even I could see that the 8-year-old's social interactions, while accurate, were still a little parroted and stilted. It was obvious to me that the boy, while he had learned to overcome the symptoms, is not truly "cured;" whatever neurological disfunction that causes autism has not been rewired correctly, and still remains. It has just been driven into a recessive state. Nonetheless, his mother's herculean interventions probably paved the way for her son to live a relatively normal life with a minimum of assistance.

Amazing as that story is, what is more amazing to me is the way this mother has reflected the work of the Holy Spirit. All of creation is infected with the sin syndrome, and it causes disfunctional behaviors that alienate us from one another, from the rest of creation, and from our Creator. Whereas the guilt of sin is forever granted in Christ's atoning sacrifice on the Cross, yet that great loving act does not rewire our souls, but merely begins another herculean intervention by the Holy Spirit, a process called by some Christians "sanctification," by the early Eastern fathers, "theosis." We learn to overcome the negative symptoms of sin and to live in a way that more and more approximates the ideal for which we were created. We'll never make it in this life, any more than little Roman will be "normal," but we will progress, and every little step of progress will cause our Father more joy and rejoicing than what Elizabeth feels as she watches her son's progress.

The issue that I think is central is that just as the stygma of autism did not put Elizabeth off from working with her son, because of Christ, the stygma of sin does not put the Holy Spirit off, either, but rather rouses her powers to meet the challenge.

The Collect for the third Sunday in Advent (this year it fell on December 12) from the Book of Common Prayer reads:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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