"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
Author: Joe LaCombe
GN 2:4B-9, 15-17
We were entrusted with the world. God asked us to care for the Earth and to cultivate it, to take care of the plants and animals and only use what we need. He gave us everything we needed, and the Earth would provide, as long as we cared for and nurtured it. There was only one condition – do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That was it. That’s all we had to do. Simple, right? Not so much.
You know the rest of the story, and we’ll be covering it in the coming days, but Adam and Eve fail to live up to that covenant. They’re like the kid and the cookie jar, who’s Mom tells them to stay out of it. What’s the first thing they do when Mom’s not around? They grab a cookie. It’s the same mandate with the reading in Genesis today, except there are much higher stakes.
The LORD God gave man this order:
“You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”
Wow! That seems pretty direct to me! How could Adam and Even give in to this temptation, knowing that if they eat from that tree they are doomed to die? Simple rule, right? I mean, most of us drive the speed limit (or close to it), or fasten our seat belt when in a car. We stop at stop signs and only go when the light is green. We know that if we do not follow these rules, then we are in danger of getting into an accident, hurting ourselves or someone else, or worse. We know the consequences. We see them everyday, and we know what can happen.
But when we read scripture, the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus, and they tell us exactly how we need to live to get to Heaven – why do we not listen? Jesus tells us what we need to do, and what we should not do if we want to live with Him eternally. It’s simple, it’s right there spelled out. Point blank. But it’s so hard to do, and it’s many times not the easiest, most popular way.
Just as it was in the Garden of Eden, we’re always being confronted with the easy route. We’re constantly being tempted with things that feel good, taste good, or look good. We’re constantly being bombarded with thoughts and ideas about a way that is easier, ways that seem to circumvent the trials and mountains we encounter in life. We don’t want the obstacles in life. We feel that we know everything; what’s good for us, what we don’t need and we feel we have the freedom to do whatever we like. We want to be our own god. Sound familiar? It should. This is the world that was cultivated in our hearts all those thousands of years ago. We couldn’t keep our hands out of the cookie jar.
God told Adam that the moment you eat from that tree, you are surely doomed to die. Well, Adam and Eve did not physically die that very moment they ate. But spiritually they did. They did not cultivate the earth as God had asked, but rather poisoned their soul. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is telling the crowd that whatever they eat, regardless of whether it is clean or not, does not hurt you.
Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?
Adam and Eve were not to immediately die from eating from that tree. Whatever they ate simply passed through them. But they were doomed to die in that they tried to be like God through pride and disobedience. At that very moment, life became hard and their hearts were hardened. At that very moment sin was written into their DNA to be transcended over the generations.
This is Jesus’ point today in the Gospel reading from Mark. Even though sin is written into our very being, we have a model in Jesus that we can follow, to make up for the mistake in Eden. He gave us an out, that if we follow Him, we can overcome that sin and become better people. It doesn’t matter what comes into us. We are going to be flooded with all kinds of evil things in this world, and all kinds of pleasures. We’re going to be attacked from all sides. Some things that just seem right won’t be, while other things that just don’t make sense sometimes make the most sense.
Our duty in these times is to look to Christ and ask Him to help us discern and to help make the choice. We cannot do it on our own, and nothing is possible without Him. It may seem like we have it under control and that we can do it all, but it just seems that way. St Mark writes:
From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
We can curb the evils and temptations that confront us by changing what we read, or what we watch (or don’t watch) on TV, or who we hang out with. But this only helps to an extent. We cannot filter everything, and eventually we’re going to be tempted to join in. In these times, we need to turn to the One who got us here, the one true friend who can help us make the right choice. Go to Mass with Him. Go sit with Him in Adoration. Reconcile yourself with Him.
Look to Christ for His grace, because in the end, that’s the only thing that can save us from what is cultivated, deep down in our soul. We don’t want to give it water and let it take root, because if we give into the temptation and those evil thoughts become actions, we end up destroying everything that God created.
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen