Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February 8, 2017: Oh, bless the Lord, my soul!

February 8, 2017
Wednesday, Week Five, Year I
Genesis 2:4-17; Psalm 104; Mark 7:14-23

Oh, bless the Lord, my soul!
Genesis 2:4-17 tells us God gave humans a responsibility. As “stewards of creation,” humans have a job:

The LORD God planted a garden in Eden... and there he put the man whom he had formed... to cultivate and care for it.

God’s word tells us work has the positive value of giving humans dignity. We are not just children playing in a garden. Our lives draw meaning and value from what we do, because what we do has value for the world.

After our fall and redemption, God persists in giving us this dignity. We even have a part, a work to do, in our own salvation, The Mass Preface III for Sundays praises God for his “loving plan of salvation”:

You came to our rescue as God, but you wanted us to  be saved by one like us. Humans refused your friendship, but a human was to restore it through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Not only that, but Jesus continues to “restore it” through humans who, as his body and disciples, continue his mission on earth. There is no end to God’s affirmation of human dignity.

When yesterday’s reading said God “rested on the seventh day,” it was hinting at more to come. In the Commandments God enjoins the Sabbath rest, recalling Genesis:

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work...For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day.[i]

The rabbis explain that this was to teach us we are different. All other creatures exist only for what they contribute to life on the planet. But humans have a reason for existence that precedes and supersedes this: we are created for direct relationship with God. Our raison d’ĂȘtre is to know and praise, love and serve God. To keep us conscious of this, God said that one day a week we are not to do anything just because it is useful. Sabbath leisure is an emancipation proclamation. It is freedom from idols.
God laid one restriction on “the man”:

You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.

“Knowing good and evil” could mean the right to decide for oneself what is good. That would be to make oneself the criterion, which is the essence of pride, because it is to make oneself like God, who alone is the criterion.[ii]

The truth is, God intended from the beginning that we should be “like God” in a way beyond imagining. We were created to “become Christ” by Baptism and “in him” to share in God’s own divine life. To be divine. But not by our own efforts. By the free gift of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Adam’s sin was to try to take, in disobedience to God, a distorted version of what God already intended to give.

This teaches a profound truth about human life. There is no good God does not want to give us. But if we seek any good outside of his guidance and in a way that is against his will, we will diminish rather than enhance our lives. We will “die” — in whole or in part — because the good we seize will not be authentic, will not be whole. It will be flawed and render us flawed.  It is only in harmony with God’s will that we can say, “Oh, bless the Lord, my soul!”

Meditation: Do I experience my value in working, interacting with God or both?

[i] Exodus 20:8-11.
[ii] See Mark 10:17.

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