This morning I am confronted by locked gates barring entrance to the most peaceful and gracious place detailed in Genesis, the garden of Eden:
“So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24
This confronts me as rather harsh and offends my spiritual orientation of God being a loving God. On further reflection, I wondered, do we perpetuate what God did to Adam and Eve in society?
While we do not have the powers of God, we do yield significant power individually and collectively on others. How many parents have barred an errant child out of love from returning home? In our society today, it is expected that children leave the safety nest of their homes. If the parents were successful, the home represented a garden of Eden where everything was provided for including instruction on things not to do or ingest (drugs, cleaning chemicals, alcohol, etc.). Internationally we sanction errant nations from global access to needed commodities.
Are we harsh and unloving parents when we know to take a son back in may cause more harm in the long run? Are we a harsh and unloving nation when we sanction a nation that is committing global atrocities and genocide within their own country?
A little further on, I am confronted with the numerical challenges of the family of Adam and his offspring. The Cain and Able story teach us about jealousy and revenge. How did they live for so long? On a positive note, Jubal, a son of Cain, introduces a family of flute and harp players as early as Genesis 4: 21. Music was important in human history from very early times. It is the first note of leisure activity in the Bible. But what about living 900 years!
Here we have fighting words that can lead to alienation amongst believers and even alienation from scripture. If you are the spiritually insecure type, stop reading here, and have a blessed day. The truth of the age depictions in the Bible is that we do not know if they are literal (by God’s miracles), symbolic (representing status and power attributed to the patriarchs), or even containing some hidden numerological meaning. The latter points were present in Hebrew culture at the time.
I treat the age question as a mystery. No theologian has convinced me that Genesis was meant to be literally intended, and archeology has not supported ancient man living that long as of yet. That does not mean it did not happen – it means the genealogy provides me a connection through descendants from Adam to Jesus Christ. This lineage is provided for a framework that I may better intuit the word of God today and how my religious formation has been determined or influenced by centuries of scripture before my time.
The fundamentalist positions assumed by many Catholics today could be described as unconscious or naïve. Most Catholics who are literal readers of the Bible do not realize that this method is not a part of their faith tradition and that such interpretations have been repeatedly discouraged by Catholic scholars, pastors and bishops.[i]
The Old Testament is filled with contradictions and complexities that have plagued religious scholars and laypeople from the moment the ink dried on the papyrus paper or scroll. We argue to this day and, sometimes, reprehensible, draw blood in the name of God.
The new testament is not free of its challenges as well as Jesus Christ’s favorite teaching methodology was parables, and we have four distinct Gospels reporting on the life of Jesus Christ.
What most it of been like to be John the Baptist? Imagine you are called to do what he did. Prepare the way for Jesus Christ and turn over your followers before being beheaded yourself? What does this teach us about humility?
In Chapter 4, Satan Tempts Jesus repeatedly three times while Jesus is at his weakest. All three times, Jesus refutes Satan with words and actions. Angels then minister to him as Satan departs, and quickly the ministry of Jesus Christ is detailed from recruiting the apostles to performing great miracles. This happens in 25 lines of scripture, no more. (Matthew Chapter 4)
How do we apply Chapter 4 to our lives without the evidence of the miracles that Jesus demonstrated in his time or Jesus Christ himself standing before us?
In the Silence and moment when Satan departs, I imagine, at the bleakest and weakest point before he begins his ministry, Jesus sits in Silence and wholly given himself to God. Then the angels came, and only then. My grandfather once watched me fight three kids, and only when I was done fighting and pinned to the ground, did he smilingly free my dog butch to come to the rescue. They scattered unharmed. That moment of stillness had never left me when I looked across the street and saw him just standing there watching. Sometimes we have to fight our own battles and God will step in when it is right to do so.
This connects to my morning meditation reading today:
“silence is almost too simple”
“silence is the most spacious and empowering technique in the world”
“it is the refusal of all technique”
Nothing against prayers, rosaries, and other contemplative prayers – but sometimes, just Silence is best. You will not know what comes after silence until you have experienced sitting with intentional silence and allowing yourself to be open to what comes. Reading scripture is only a starting point. Living it is the greatest challenge.