The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Homily: Wednesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time

Today's Readings: Gn 2:4b-9, 15-17 • Psalm 143 • Mk 7:14-23

The Genesis story of the creation and fall should really overwhelm us, filling us with thankfulness for God’s creative act. For creation was an act of pure love, a completely unnecessary act by God, one matched only by the redeeming act of His Son on the Cross. There’s an element of sacred irony in all this: that God would offer His Son in this second great act of love because we rejected His first great act of love.

What a loving God we have! And how undeserving we are of that overpowering love! And how clearly that love is expressed in Genesis. I’m always a bit distressed when I hear Catholics dismiss these first chapters of Genesis: “Oh, they’re just old myths.” or “Genesis and all that stuff about Adam and Eve? No way.” How foolish of them. By ignoring these first chapters of Genesis – a story that was never meant to be a scientific explanation of our coming into being -- they miss the entire point.

Genesis was written for one primary purpose: to tell us that God created the world…that all of creation comes from one power, from God’s eternal Reason, which became the power of creation…and that all of this comes from the same Word of God we meet in the act of faith, the very one we meet in the Word of Holy Scripture.

It’s in today’s reading from Genesis that we first encounter ourselves, that we first get the answer to the question: Who are we?

Well, the first thing we discover is that we were formed from the dust of the earth, something both humbling and consoling. Humbling because we are told implicitly, “You are not God. You didn’t create yourself. You don’t rule the universe, or even your little corner of it. You’re a limited, very limited being. You’re just earth, a being destined for death.”

Now, that’s humbling! But it’s consoling as well, because we’re also told: “You aren’t evil spirits, formed by some kind of negative force. You weren’t formed by chance, by a roll of the cosmic dice. You were formed from the elements of God’s creation.”

And Genesis has more to tell us. We also see how man was introduced, created into Paradise, how he was brought into the very presence of God – the glory God originally gave to man, a glory lost by sin. And so we learn something else: that God called us to a life which surpasses our limited human nature. He called us to participate in His Life. In other words, from the very beginning God has called us, His creatures, to a participation in a life that, by our nature, we don’t possess. That’s right, from the very start, were called not to a natural end, but to a supernatural end. We were called to be with God in Paradise, a destiny He still holds for us. It remains our destiny.

And so, just as Genesis introduces us to the secret of our origins, something that neither science nor myth can penetrate, so too does it make known to us the most mysterious depths of our future. It’s in Genesis, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that we are given our first glimpse into the mystery of God’s marvelous plan for us.

These pages, written so long ago, still shine forth today like precious stones. How sad that so many are blind to their beauty. In some respects today’s atheist is even further from the truth than the ancient pagans. Yes, give me a good, old pagan anytime.

The atheist tries to change the image of man; tries to make us into something other than creatures of God, to make us unto something we aren’t. Unwilling to accept their divine origins they see themselves as either everything or nothing. And yet, if they would only turn to Genesis they would encounter the truth about themselves, they would see what being a child of God really means.

Emperor, president, CEO, beggar, prisoner, child, the dying, the newborn, the unborn…we are, in the final analysis, all the same, children of God. The unity of all humanity becomes something very real. We are all one, one humanity, formed by God’s hand from God’s one earth...all children of a loving God

Yes, in the face of human division and human arrogance and human hatred, where one person sets himself against another, God declares humanity to be His one creation from His one earth.

I suppose the question here (and the lesson) for all of us relates to how we see others. Do we look at every other person and see one with whom we will one day share God’s joy? Do we see them as persons who, together with us, are called to be members of the Body of Christ? And in our limited, unfocused, myopic view…do we really see them as our brothers and sisters? Do we actually see ourselves and others as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, as children of the Father?

Perhaps in our arrogance you and I may answer, “Yes, of course I do.” But do our actions, or words, our thoughts say something very different?

That should give us something to ponder today.

3 comments:

  1. We are the Royal Family.
    And by we, I mean, All of Humanity.

    We form the body of Christ.
    We partake of His body and blood.
    We are what we eat.

    Peace, Uncle Tree

    God bless you! :-)

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  2. Hi Deacon Dana, thank you for your post. I was very inspired reading it and what you make of the Genesis account. But you lose me when you say that everyone, all humanity, are children of God. The Bible says that only those in Christ Jesus are adopted as God's children (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1-10, Romans 8:16, Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5-6). Yes, we are all His creation, His creatures, but it is important to specify that only those who are true believers in Jesus are His children. Likewise, while we as human beings are all related and share a common ancestor, it is only those in Christ that we can say are our true brothers and sisters in the faith. Let me know if you feel otherwise, but I felt this should be clarified.

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  3. Sorry for the delay in responding, but Holy Week is keeping me busy.

    I use the phrase "children of God" not in the formal, theological sense of adopted children of the Father that results from our baptism, but as it is used in Catholic Social Teaching. Here we are taught that the inherent dignity of the human person stems from our creation by God. In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church issued by the Vatican in 2004, we read (35):

    "Every person is created by God, loved and saved in Jesus Christ, and fulfills himself by creating a network of multiple relationships of love, justice and solidarity with other persons while he goes about his various activities in the world. Human activity, when it aims at promoting the integral dignity and vocation of the person, the quality of living conditions and the meeting in solidarity of peoples and nations, is in accordance with the plan of God, who does not fail to show his love and providence to his children."

    And as Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (77) when addressing the fifth commandment: "It resounds in the moral conscience of everyone as an irrepressible echo of the original covenant of God the Creator with mankind. It can be recognized by everyone through the light of reason and it can be observed thanks to the mysterious working of the Spirit who, blowing where he wills (cf. Jn 3:8), comes to and involves every person living in this world."

    And the US Bishops in their document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (40), state, "The consistent ethic of life provides a moral framework for principled Catholic engagement in political life and, rightly understood, neither treats all issues as morally equivalent nor reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues. It anchors the Catholic commitment to defend human life, from conception until natural death, in the fundamental moral obligation to respect the dignity of every person as a child of God."

    It is in this sense, that human beings are not simply creatures, like dogs or giraffes or fleas, but because of our creation in God's image and likeness, all human beings have a unique dignity and can call God, "Abba, Father."

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