Friday, February 13, 2009

They Hid Among The Trees, So the LORD Would Not See Them

Yesterday, we read of the man’s reaction when he woke up from a deep sleep, and saw the partner God had created for him. He said “At last! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” The man and his wife were both naked, but felt no shame.

In today’s first reading, a new actor appears on the scene, a serpent cleverer than any wild animal God had created, a serpent that could talk. He spoke to the woman:

Did God really tell you not to eat from any tree in the garden?

Not at all. We can eat from all the trees in the garden but one, the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, “Don’t eat from that tree. Don’t even touch it, or you’ll die."

No, you won’t die. God knows that as soon as you eat the fruit of that tree, you’ll be like gods. Your eyes will be opened, and you will know what is good and what is evil.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree looked like it would be tasty, and she remembered that the serpent told her she would know what is right and what is wrong, she decided to take the fruit and eat it, then she gave some to the man, and he also ate it.

As soon as they ate the forbidden fruit, the man and the woman realized that what the serpent told them was true. Now they realized that everything had been right up all along, but no more, because they had done wrong. When they looked at each other, they saw that they were naked, and they were ashamed. So they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves, to hide their nakedness. Then they heard the sound of the LORD strolling in the garden, enjoying the evening breeze. And they went and hid themselves among the trees, so that the LORD would not see them.

In the family photo album, there is a snapshot of two brothers, and two sisters, splashing around in the bathtub as if they were in a wading pool. The baby must have been about a year and a half old, so the eldest had to be seven, and the other two were in between. They were having great fun. They didn’t have any clothes on, but it didn’t bother them; there was nothing to be ashamed of. Six years later, when they went swimming the city pool, you can be sure they were all wearing bathing suits. What was different? The eldest had entered his teens; the youngest was seven, and she had made her First Communion that May. In a word, they were old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. They were capable of being ashamed.

One thing that the serpent – who is not a snake, but a demon – says in this passage from Genesis 3, holds the key to understanding this mini-drama in the garden. The devil does not say “You will be like God”, but “You will be like gods.” The devil wants us to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, a prerogative that belongs only to the Creator. God, on the other hand, wants us to be like God. The way to achieve that goal is pointed out to us by Jesus in the gospel, “Become like little children.” Or, “Let go! Let God!”

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