Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 2:4b-9.15-17; Mark 7:14-23)

When television was still very young, a weekly series of dramas once told the story of the man who left his hometown to learn everything there is. He comes back to report to his townspeople the fruit of his efforts. When all gather to hear what he has to say, the man divulges the wisdom gained in ten simple lessons. “I am the Lord, your God;” he proclaims, “You shall not have strange gods before me.” Today’s reading from Genesis tells us as much.

We may wonder why God forbids eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. After all, we wonder, can knowledge be bad for us? The answer that Scripture provides sounds blasphemous to the modern way of thinking. “Yes,” it says, “if knowledge is divorced from obedience to God’s commands, it leads to folly.” Anticipating knowledge of atomic weapons and human cloning, Genesis reminds us that God’s law is given not to obstruct human progress but to abet it. Only in conjunction with divine rule can humans advance in harmony and justice.

Contemporary wisdom tells us to take nothing for granted; everything -- even dogmas of faith -- must be challenged. Such an attitude will only lead to the loss of the basis of human dignity. It is not that we are forbidden to question what we have been taught. But our questions should be framed so that they lead us to greater appreciation of the faith we cherish, not to its demise. Universal skepticism does not lead to wisdom but to confusion. Only through abiding by God’s revelation will we advance on the road of understanding.