Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 3:1-8; Mark 7:31-37)
Although the serpent is frequently looked on as the devil, Genesis never says it. It is an intelligent creature with a gift also for smooth talking. It might be considered a person’s divided mind which poses contrary arguments to the positions he or she holds in conscience. As we learn growing up, these contrary ideas often make us our worst enemies.
In the garden the serpent tempts the woman not with lies but with distorted truth. “Did God really tell you not to eat of any of the trees in the garden?” it asks. There was something in God’s command about not eating fruit but the prohibition was hardly universal; indeed, it was limited to one tree. Humans often exaggerate the extent of prohibitions. The Church’s Lenten penance, for example, does not require fasting everyday but on two days and abstaining from meat on eight. The woman herself begins to play the devil’s game. She says that God told them not to touch the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil as well as not to eat it. Both she and the devil make God appear as opposed to human welfare. On the other hand, they paint a picture in which humans have to oppose God’s will in order to attain it.
It has been said that Genesis is true not because it reveals what happened at the beginning of history but because it shows what happens everyday. Like the woman and her partner, we can easily talk ourselves into sins like gossiping and stealing and sometimes into truly abominable acts like abortion and betrayal. For our own welfare as well as the benefit of others, we need to make every effort to form our consciences well and then to heed carefully what they tell us to do.