First reading Jeremiah 20:10-13
He has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men
Responsorial Psalm 68(69):8-10,14,17,33-35
Second reading Romans 5:12-15
Gospel Matthew 10:26-33
It has almost become a commonplace to speak about the sin of Adam and Eve as a historical event, a sin committed a long time ago in the past by the first human beings. We imagine this so-called ‘original sin’ as having disastrous effects upon the whole human race.
Consistent with this way of imagining things, people speak about ‘the Fall’, imagining that human beings were once in one state – living in paradise – and then we fell into the mixed up state in which we find ourselves. Some of us even imagine that if our first parents had not sinned human beings would not have physically died. We would have somehow been immortal.
None of these ideas make much sense, and more awareness of the kind of literature with which we are dealing in the early chapters of Genesis has led us to find truth in the story at another level.
The story of the sin of Adam and Eve is not a record of an event in the life of our first parents. Adam stands for Every-man and Eve for Every-woman. It is a story about human beings and the way we behave. We all find ourselves failing to listen to God.
If we are honest with ourselves, we see ourselves to varying degrees in Adam and Eve: the same pride, the same disobedience, the same confusion, the same attempt to find excuses. Left to ourselves we often get it wrong, we don’t see properly, we are confused, we fail to live within our real limits, we don’t know how to open our hearts to receive from God, we sin and we entice others to sin with us, we lose contact with the sacred and we die inside.
Left to ourselves we do what Adam and Eve do in the story and we wonder why we wander on the face of the earth feeling like outcasts.
The point Paul is making is that, thanks to Jesus, whom he calls ‘the new Adam’, we know that we are not left to ourselves. We sometimes feel that we have been banished by God, but it is not true. God loves us and continues to call us.
Jesus kept on trying to say that we have the wrong picture. We might stray from God and spoil the garden of this world and find ourselves in a desert, but God doesn’t banish us from the garden. We walk out and we are constantly being invited back. Jesus showed very clearly that God is love and wants us to live and to live to the full.
We are all called to ‘strike our note’. Jesus shows us that God is pouring out a unique grace over each of us. As Jesus insists in today’s Gospel, ‘even the hairs on your head are all counted’.
Jesus taught us not to be afraid of God. He showed us that God knows our weakness, and loves us as we are. His longing is that we might live and live to the full (John 10:10), He wants each of us to ‘strike our note’, and in order that we might do this, Jesus gives us a share in his Spirit, in the love-communion with God which he experiences.
To the author of the Book of Genesis a human being could be represented by Adam and Eve – and there is a lot of truth in what he writes. But now that we have seen Jesus we must revise our ideas about what it means to be human. If we want to know who we really are we no longer look at the story of Adam, for he shows us who we are without Jesus.
Now, says Paul, let us look at Jesus. It is he who shows us what it really means to be human, and he makes it possible for us by sharing his Spirit with us.
There are times when we feel like Adam. We feel overwhelmed, lost, bewildered and heavy of heart. There are times when we cry out, like Jeremiah in today’s First Reading, but feel that no one is listening. The Responsorial Psalm picks up the mood of the Mass nicely by encouraging us to keep crying out, trusting that God does hear the cry of the poor, and that he is answering us.
We must remember, however, that only God knows best what we really need. We must remember also that sometimes we are not yet ready to receive the grace that God is offering us. We will receive the grace we really need, as the psalmist says, ‘at an acceptable time’: in other words, when we are ready.