For June 10, 2012: Proper 5, Year B

The Reading            Genesis 3:8-15

We all know the story of Adam and Eve, right? Serpent tempts Eve with apple, Eve tempts poor Adam, and voila! Original Sin. It’s incredibly familiar—but wait. First, the fruit was no apple. Second, the snake is not necessarily Satan. How else might the lesson not be what we’ve always thought it is?

The Response            Psalm 130

The Epistle            2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

In today’s reading from the second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul looks forward from the “slight momentary affliction” of life in a failing body to the glory of eternal life with the risen Jesus. Before that, though, Paul’s concern is here and now as he works and prays for God’s grace to extend throughout this world.

The Gospel            Mark 3:20-35

 

Further thoughts

On a warm Sunday afternoon a quarter-century ago, a girl of 10 was sobbing helplessly. Neither her parents nor the young woman in whose lap she huddled nor the dozen other adults in the tiny apartment had the heart to stop her. Word had come that morning that a couple whom they all esteemed as family, whose oldest son was (and still is) the girl’s great friend, had gone to awaken their beautiful four-month-old baby boy for Mass and found him dead. As the girl wept, her brother played on the floor with a wooden train set. Something made the little fellow crow with glee, at which the girl burst out, “I wish I weren’t grown up enough to have to know this!” She had consciousness that her little brother didn’t; often that was good, but in this case, it hurt.

Today’s readings all deal in limits and boundaries. A boundary marks the point at which something that was not, is or something that is, ceases to be: ownership is a boundary (“mine” vs. “not mine”), and so is a law, and so are birth and death and creation. As Genesis opens, God has no rest until God creates that which is not God, which is the universe. Then in today’s reading, the man and the woman cross a boundary set by God and meet consequences that, like the girl’s, hurt—but they also cross a boundary of knowledge like the one that separated the girl’s consciousness from that of her brother, and like the one that distinguished her parents’ consciousness from hers. Paul refuses to be bound by the limits of his frail human body as he strives toward the goal of bringing more and more people within the extent of God’s grace. Jesus bids us rethink the boundaries between “insane” and “sane”, between “demon-possessed” and “Spirit-filled”, and between “enemy” and “friend”; in the process he demonstrates for us a radically expanded definition of “family”.

Perhaps, then, this Genesis story is less about the wickedness of human beings than it is about the urge—inherited from our Father—to know and to make and to both create and transcend boundaries. Being God is beyond our grasp: who but God could take a personal interest in each and every atom in the universe, let alone bear the burden of balancing the best interests of all creatures great and small? Within our own God-given spheres, however, we can listen and learn and allow the boundaries of our families to expand, and in so doing we live out the kingdom of God among us.

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