JUNE 10TH, 2018: TENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?"
He answered, "I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself."
Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!"
The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me—
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it."
The LORD God then asked the woman,
"Why did you do such a thing?"
The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it."
Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
"Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel."
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore we speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.
Therefore, we are not discouraged;
rather, although our outer self is wasting away,
our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this momentary light affliction
is producing for us an eternal weight of glory
beyond all comparison,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen;
for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.
For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent,
should be destroyed,
we have a building from God,
a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
Jesus came home with his disciples.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, "He is out of his mind."
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said,
"He is possessed by Beelzebul,"
and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
"How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself
and is divided, he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder the house.
Amen, I say to you,
all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin."
For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
His mother and his brothers arrived.
Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
"Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you."
But he said to them in reply,
"Who are my mother and my brothers?"
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother."
Can’t emphasize enough the importance of today’s Genesis reading. One of the earliest writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, it not only sets the theme for many of the writings which follow, but more important for Christians, Jesus of Nazareth seems to have grounded his reform of Judaism in its theology.
Though frequently referred to as God’s punishments for original sin, these verses are simply the Yahwistic author’s reflections on the “human condition” we’re all forced to experience. We have to endure certain things simply because we’re alive. We have no choice.
In this specific pericope, the author reflects on our quest to eradicate evil – personified by the serpent. Employing the metaphor of someone stomping a snake to death with one’s bare feet, she reminds her readers that only those willing to endure the pain that comes from being bit by the snake will eventually crush the snake. Our heel is never quicker than a snake’s fangs. We’ll kill the snake, but we’ll limp for a long time.
Our Genesis author certainly wants her readers to eradicate evil, but she’s realistic about the process. No one just snaps his or her finger and evil disappears. Before we tackle evil, we’d best check the height of our pain threshold. That’s the main reason evil persists in our lives. There are not a lot of people willing to suffer through its eradication.
For Christians, here’s where Jesus of Nazareth comes in. This first century CE Palestinian preacher was convinced the Yahwistic author had hit the nail on the head. There’s no other way to make this world better. Unless someone is willing to suffer, evil remains. But he takes this snake-killing thing one step further. If our evil-destroying stomping includes giving ourselves to others, we’ll not only help rid the world of this scourge, we’ll also gain life for ourselves.
Our earliest Christian author, Paul, must constantly remind the people he’s brought into the faith to simply “hang in there.” We have no exact idea what motivates him to write today’s II Corinthians passage, but we logically presume it has something to do with the struggle all Christians endure, simply keeping up the fight to get rid of the evil around us.
The first miracle Jesus worked in Mark’s gospel was exorcising a demoniac. I mentioned when I commented on it several months ago that the first miracle in each gospel is very significant; it sets the theme for the whole gospel. It basically tells us what Jesus expects of his disciples. If, before anything else, he exorcises a demon, he’s telling his followers they, like he, are to get rid of evil, no matter what it costs, no matter how painfully we limp.
That seems to be one of the reasons Mark composed today’s gospel pericope. How can we expect to avoid suffering if Jesus couldn’t avoid suffering? In this case, the suffering that comes from being misunderstood by those closest to us.
We can understand why some of Jesus’ enemies – the Jerusalem scribes – interpret his snake-killing actions as coming from the devil himself. But what’s worse, even his relatives – later identified as his “mother(!) and brothers” – are also convinced he’s “out of his mind.” The preaching that brings life to so many tears his own family apart.
How many of us, for family peace and tranquility, frequently keep our mouths shut instead of speaking up when we discover evil? Why would we create more evil by pointing out the evil that’s already there?
If we eventually leave this world in the same condition in which we found it, we, and those around us might experience a peaceful, painless existence, but we’ll never do what God put us on earth to do.