Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Who Is God?
Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17
I noticed today that the readings at mass seemed at odds, and I pondered what they truly meant.
In Genesis, “God formed man of dust” and “planted a garden in Eden,” and “the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” And then He told the man (Adam): “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,” or if you do “you shall die”.
In Mark we heard Jesus say: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him, but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” And “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, … pride…”
So in Genesis we heard “don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil --- or you’ll die (the eternal death),” yet in Mark we heard that we are not defiled by what goes into us. Genesis says “don’t eat” and Mark says “it doesn’t matter what you eat.” Huh?
And what about the tree of life, which was also mentioned as being in the center of the Garden?
Laws were laid down in the Old Testament and Jesus came to fulfill them. We were treated as God’s children in the Old Testament, but with Jesus we are treated as adults: things are explained to us, and we assume responsibilities. In Genesis Adam and Eve were treated as children when they were told “you can do this, but don’t do that.” No reasons were given. In the New Testament Jesus explains the “why” of the rules.
Applying Jesus’ explanation to the Garden situation, you can see that God wasn’t concerned about man’s eating certain fruits in the Garden, but what man believes he gains from eating them: a knowledge of good and evil. That knowledge is God’s alone, for sin offends God and only He can say what offends Him. We can’t say He is or He isn’t offended by something, unless we think we know the mind of God. And that would make us God. That’s the root of the first commandment God issued to man: I am God; you are not; you must not think or act as if you are God --- “or you will die the eternal death.”
Jesus later explains that if in our heart we believe something wrong and do it anyway, that is when sin originates.
Jesus said the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart. Jesus’ life then gives so many examples of what love means and what love does, how we are to understand and live that commandment. In the Old Testament Adam and Eve, as yet, have no idea what love is or means, so God’s rule is put a different way: Don’t eat of that tree. Despite the lure of the devil’s temptations, God’s rule said (in effect): “Don’t think you can be Me; don’t think you can define good and evil.”
So that’s the lessons from today’s readings, and the question they ask of us: What is in your heart? Do you trust in God’s rules, or must you understand them --- meaning you understand God. Do you think you can define the way to live a good life, ignoring that Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life?” Must every single thing make sense to you before you can believe?
By definition, if you only believe what you know, you have no faith.
There’s an interesting example of these readings being played out in Congress right now. A law (the ACA) was passed by some in Congress who readily admitted they hadn’t even read it, but they said: “Trust us, this is a good law.” Now there are changes to be made in that law and those same people who hadn’t read the law are asking: “What changes? Which words? Why?” And then they conclude their thoughts on the matter with: “Whatever you change will only make it worse.” What they are saying is: “If I wanted it in the first place, it was good (I define good and evil), but if you want to change it I must understand the changes in detail, and approve (I’m God). That’s the implied words of Adam and Eve, in their sin: “I want that fruit so it must be good; tell me in detail why I shouldn’t have it.”
It’s so basic. Jesus said love God first; man said he loves himself first. The joke question is: “Who’s on first?” The serious question is: “What is in your heart?” God wants our hearts.
“True religion has exterior manifestations, certainly, but it flows from the heart. (The Better Part, Meditation 115)”