Today’s reflection is for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 10, 2018.
Today’s Gospel demands that we take a serious look at the divisions that exist within ourselves, our relationships, our country, and in our Church. Sadly, there can be no doubt that divisions do indeed exist. The question is what to do about it.
Last summer was the summer of Harry Potter! Mark was reading the series and as a reward for him completing a book, I would rent the movie for us to watch–so that we could all enjoy his hard work! I couldn’t help but be moved by Harry’s struggle to keep Lord Voldemort out of his head! It seemed, tragically, that Harry and “the Dark Prince” were irreversibly linked to the point that Harry was often sick, Voldemort’s thoughts and words become twisted and intertwined with his own, and Harry clearly was in anguish over the physical, emotional, and psychological toll that the division was taking…and so it is with Satan and ourselves.
When did all of this division occur? Is brokenness a part of God’s plan? My students are quick to say (in what I think is a defeatist, victim-type attitude), “Well, Mr. Valgos, that’s just the way it is.” To which I am even more quick to respond, “That may be the way it is, but that is NOT the way it ought to be! Let’s not talk about what is unless we also talk about what ought to be!”
The beautiful stories in the first book of Sacred Scripture, the book of Genesis, give us both what it ought to be and what is–and even why it has become the way it is. Through rich symbolism and figurative language we clearly see the truth that God created a beautiful world, in perfect harmony: man to woman, humanity to earth and animals, and all of Creation to the Creator. In today’s first reading from the second story of Genesis, we are immediately confronted with the reality of sin and its consequences.
God created man out of the dust of the ground and created a beautiful paradise in which man could live–but man was alone. So God put man to sleep and from his side created another to be man’s companion, friend, and love. In short order, humanity disobeys God and disorder is the immediate consequence! In their desire for what was not properly theirs the man and the woman eat of the forbidden tree and feel shame in each other’s site, begin to hide from God, and begin to blame each other, evil, and even God for their woes.
God says to the couple, “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.” And just like that, we have the modern internal, family, and national crisis that exist! How long have these divisions and blame been going on?! Well, since the beginning!
This condition of division within ourselves and with God that causes us to hide from God’s sight, that creates conflict within our relationships, and disharmony with all of Creation, and that ultimately results in brokenness, sadness, and pain is what we call Original Sin. But we must admit first and foremost that in the Beginning it was not so. Okay, so it didn’t last long, but it is the way it ought to be!
The C.C.C. teaches that “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents (390). In that deed the state of original holiness and justice, from which happiness and friendship with God flowed (384) was lost. (sigh)
This tragedy is the flip side of the Good News. Again, with regard to original sin, the Catechism teaches, “The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the ‘reverse side’ of the Good News, that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all through Christ” (389). We know that God’s desire is harmony and peace! Our brokenness, however, is the cause of disharmony, and disunity that leads to death–spiritual and physical! The first eleven chapters of Genesis all teach the same truth of this sad human condition of disobedience toward God’s will: The Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, and the Tower of Babel.
Each of these narratives all teach the same truth, namely, that humanity turns against God, and when it does pain, suffering, and death quickly follow. But these eleven chapters also teach the most important truth, namely, that sin, brokenness, and death never has the last word–grace does.
In the story of The Fall humanity’s relationship with each other, with the earth, and with it’s animals changes, but God’s mercy clothes them and promises to “put enmity” between the serpent and humanity (a foreshadowing of Christ). In Cain and Abel, Cain is sent to be a restless wanderer but God’s mercy marks him with a seal of protection from those who might seek his life. In Noah and the flood wickedness is washed away, cleansing the earth, but God’s mercy calls Noah to build an ark that God’s creation might endure. And in the Tower of Babel, God scatters humanity across the nations confusing their languages–an event undone by God’s mercy in the call of Abraham that leads to the day of Pentecost whereby the Power of the Holy Spirit unites nations to hear the Good News through the gift of tongues!
Jesus enters the scene and although he is indeed the source of reconciliation with humanity and God, although he heals the blind and the lame, the deaf and the mute, although he forgives sinners and brings them back into the community and to the worship of God, although he the very means by which God is reconciling the world to himself, the scribes have the audacity to claim that HE is acting on behalf of the devil! What?! Even when all evidence is to the contrary, he is accused of being a source of division between humanity and God.
Jesus gives them the beautiful truth that transcends every generation, namely, that a house divided cannot stand. What they claim cannot be true he says. How can he both be the source of unity, goodness, and truth while at the same time be aligned with the divider, the evil one, the deceiver? “Summoning them, [Jesus] 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” (MK 3:23-26)
No sir, Jesus quite clearly cannot be working for God AND working for Satan. Nor can those who belong to him. Those whom make up the family of God. The new people of God. Those who are brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus. There is a new family that exists through Jesus. Are you in it? Whose side are you on?
Earthly family, blood line, genetic code no longer has any power over us. Not a history of family sin, not a history of personal sin. In Christ Jesus we can be renewed, redeemed, and become heirs of God’s mercy and paradise. Jesus drives this point home to his audience when they say that his family has arrived! He says, who, them? Jesus looks around at those seated in the circle and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (3:34-35).
Therefore the Psalmist today proclaims, “With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption!” (130:7bc) God does not leave us alone in our sin. God wants us to be undivided in our heart, united with each other, and united to Him. That’s what Jesus and the Kingdom are all about! St. Paul tells the Corinthians we have been given a spirit of faith that causes us to believe and to give witness in word and deed! And this Spirit is all about the work of renewal in us and in the world.
He says, “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 what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal” (4:15-18)
The Good News today is that while sin existed from the beginning and has been ever present as a source of internal, family, societal, and church division, it need not be so and this division does not have the last word–God’s abundant grace does. Grace, however, requires cooperation. We must choose to belong to Christ Jesus and his family, and participate with the work he is about. With our freedom we must choose Christ and life. God has given us his spirit that is all about the renewal of our body and soul, but we must strive daily to enter into the mystery and be transformed by God’s life and love.
Division only has the last word if we reject God, because with God there is the fullness of mercy and redemption. Division only has the last word if we refuse to participate in what God is doing in the world. Division only has the last word if we do not today fall to our knees and seek his family of faith. In other words, division only occurs if we let it. Division only occurs if we only talk about what is, instead of what ought to be and what can be through Christ Jesus.
Let’s unite God’s house. Let’s start in me. Amen?