Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 10, 2017: Happy are those whose sins are forgiven.

February 10, 2017
Friday, Week Five, Year I
Genesis 3:1-8; Psalm 31; Mark 7:31-37.

Happy are those whose sins are forgiven.

A basic human question is, “Why do people wear clothes?” Genesis 3:1-8 says it started with sin.

The serpent aroused Eve’s interest in the forbidden fruit by the promise it would make humans “like God, knowing good and evil.” Her first mistake was to listen. Her second was to take a closer look. And what she saw was “good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.”

Since this triple enticement to sin describes the first human temptation, John may have been echoing it when he warned us against “all that is in [belongs to] the world.” In literal translation this is “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life.” But every translation differs.[i]

The Genesis “good for food,” as “desire of the flesh” includes any physical gratification, “sensual lust,” “disordered bodily desires.”

The second, “pleasing to the eyes,” includes greed, avarice, uncritical yearning for the visible short-term goods offered and advertised in every human culture. This is the “glamour of evil” we are called to repulse at Baptism when we “reject Satan... and all his empty promises.”

The third, “enticing for the knowledge or wisdom it could give,” goes deeper: to that “pride of life” (also translated “a pretentious life,” “pride in riches.” or “people boasting in their superiority”) which is an arrogant conviction of self-sufficiency, a “complacency and willful independence in pursuing one’s earthly existence, pride in one’s own resources.” This is the opposite of true wisdom, which is defined as the “desire for spiritual things” or the “habit of seeing everything in the light of our last end.” Our true fulfillment is eternal life, not temporal. Life in union with God. Something we cannot achieve by our own resources but only in humble obedience and dependence on God.

Eve fell into the pride of making her own judgment the criterion of truth and the power of her own choices the source of ultimate fulfillment. This is the core of sin. Adam followed her. And so do we whenever we neglect the guidance of God’s word or choose our own will over his.

Sin does let us “know good and evil.” The JBC says, “For the Semites, ‘to know’ means to experience in any way. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are terms of polarity and can signify totality, hence a total experience, not necessarily in a moral sense.” Before sin, Adam and Eve’s experience of life was totally good. Afterwards, it wasn’t totally bad, but it may have felt like it.

Sometimes our sins make us feel “totally bad.” We are ashamed of all that we are. We want to hide our true selves from others. Hence the “clothes” of reserve, unsharing privacy, fear of expressing our feelings or thoughts. We are “hung up” out of fear of nakedness.

The answer is not na├»ve, unrestrained spontaneity. Once sin exists in the world, self-exposure is vulnerability. But it is essential to love. Jesus did not restore the primitive nakedness of Eden, but he did expose his heart in word and action and his self to rejection. He was naked on the cross as he had made himself naked in self-revelation. But he loved through it, shedding his blood “so that sins may be forgiven.” Love wins.

Meditation: Why do I sin? What am I really seeking, assuming, forgetting?

[i]See  1John 2:16 and the 1968 Jerome Biblical Commentary for this text and the Genesis story.  

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