Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 2:4b-9.15-17; Mark 7:14-23)
Just after witnessing the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in 1945, Harvard physicist Kenneth Bainbridge told J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the project, “Now we are all sons of bitches.” He meant that in a sense they had accessed forbidden knowledge since God would not want humans to know how to destroy themselves. The quest for that knowledge, however, did not start during World War II. Its root can be seen in humans eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which today’s first reading describes.
Biblical experts are divided on the meaning of the tree. Some say that eating its fruit gives humans the authority to say for themselves what is right and wrong. This knowledge then is equivalent to moral relativism in which people determine for themselves what is right and wrong. It inevitably leads to conflict and violence. Others believe that eating the fruit gives no special power but only represents disobeying the Creator who has revealed His precepts for humans. Knowledge from revelation is enough for humans to live happily. Unfortunately, however, they prove themselves unwilling to live in respectful obedience to God.
All of God’s commandments entail putting limits on human authority. But they are not meant to deprive humans of a good. Rather, they insure that humans don’t experience what is bad. We are wise to give all God’s commandments – whether revealed in nature or in Scripture – strict attention. In doing so, we save ourselves a lot of grief.