Memorial of Saint Scholastica, virgin
(Genesis 3:1-8; Mark 7:31-37)
Although the serpent in the first reading is traditionally considered the devil, Genesis does not say it. It may profitably be considered as the complex of desires which often clouds human reason. People fall into sin after debating in their minds proposals that counter the principles by which they live. Human desires conjure these proposals which often appear reasonable but whose half-truths are misleading.
Nothing that the serpent tells the woman in the garden proves to be completely false. God did prohibit the pair from eating of at least one of the trees. When they eat of the forbidden fruit, they do not die immediately. And their action does end in new knowledge making them less innocent and experienced. These half-truths, however, masquerade the enormity of the offense which their desires for autonomy, immortality, and knowledge induce.
It is really an old story that has been refurbished many times. Alice McDermott’s Child of My Heart gives a version of it. The novel tells of a teenage girl who lives with her parents near the beach. When a sick cousin comes to spend the summer, the girl enjoys doting on the child so much that she refuses to tell anyone that her cousin has begun to hemorrhage. The story, like that of the first humans in the garden, ends tragically. The cousin dies prematurely because the girl allows her desires to get the better of her reason.