11 June 2024

Homily - 9 June 2024 - The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

The beginning is always connected to the end and the end is always necessarily connected to the beginning. If we look closely at the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis we perceive an understanding of the world and of the cosmos very different from that of other religions and of our own secular age. This understanding of creation gives us a more insightful recognition of what it means to be human. The understanding of the high dignity of every man, woman, and child – and why that dignity has been marred – is essential to understanding both Judaism and Christianity.

What do we find if we consider these eight verses we have heard from the third chapter of Genesis? If we go back just a little, we find the context in which these verses occur: Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). They were forbidden to eat of this tree on pain of the loss of their deathless state: “From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die” (Genesis 2:17).

Detail, The Creation of Adam and Eve, etc., Add MS 10546, f. 5v

Now, having eaten of that tree, our first parents recognized their nakedness, which is to say they lost their innocence. Saint Augustine put it this way:

…they saw that they were naked, but with eyes asquint, to which the simplicity signified by nakedness seemed something to be ashamed of. And so, as they were no longer simple, they made themselves aprons from fig leaves, to cover their private parts, that is to conceal their simplicity, of which cunning pride was now ashamed.[1]

And because they were ashamed they hid from God, they tried to conceal themselves from God; the combination of their pride and shame something convinced such a ridiculous notion – hiding from God - was possible.

It is fair to say Adam and Eve rejected their state of original innocence and threw it away. Because they lost that simple innocence in which they were made, they came to fear God, which is why

Man is always in need of liberation from his fears and his sins. Man must ceaselessly learn or relearn that God is not his enemy, but his infinitely good Creator. Man needs to know that his life has a meaning, and that he is awaited, at the conclusion of his earthly sojourn, so as to share for ever in Christ's glory in heaven.[2]


If we are to encounter God when he comes toward us, we must let go of our pride and shame.

But how is it you and I share in the consequences of the original sin of our first parents?

Why do we have evil, pain, suffering, alienation, loneliness, and death? God is not the author of moral evil and human suffering. Death was not in God’s design for man. He did not make the world bent and broken in this way. Darkness descended as a result of Adam’s sin. He was given dominion, and his disobedience had dire consequences. Choices have legs and walk around, so to speak. Satan sneered in wicked glee as he watched death overshadow what God had seen as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). As Wisdom says, “Through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wisdom 2:24).[3]

Before any of us objects that we are part of the devil’s party, have I ever resisted or opposed God’s will? The answer is certainly yes, which means we are not fully part of God’s party. Adam and Eve rejected God’s will; we, too, reject God’s will. Just as we inherit physical – and even some emotional – traits from our parents, so we have inherited a spiritual fallenness from Adam and Eve.

At the very moment Adam and Eve rejected God’s will through disobedience,

…a spiritual death took place instantly, a separation between man and his God; a second death also began to work in mankind, a physical death in which the body is separated from soul. Other “deaths” also were at work: separation of man from man – Adam blames Eve. Later, Cain kills Abel, and a separation of man from himself so now he lies to and deceives himself; he has fear, loneliness, and psychological problems. Man is separated from nature – harmony with creation is broken, and the physical world now turns a hostile face to mankind. As a result of man’s sin, even the physical creation is cursed and suffers.[4]

Many people find themselves asking why so many tragedies and heart-breaking stories are heard every day – things such as bullying or the abandonment of a child. The answer is simple, even if not quite satisfactory: sin. Men, women, and children choose to listen to the deceptions of the Evil One and close their minds and hearts to God.

If the story simply stopped here, we might be tempted to despair, which is “only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.”[5] But we know how the story ends; we cannot fall into despair because the end is full of hope. We do indeed see the end beyond all doubt, but not as the despairing do. The end, as we said, is contained in the beginning: “…he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The one who strikes at the head is certainly stronger, more powerful, than the one who strikes at the foot. “The colorful imagery foretells a future conflict between the devil and a man born of a woman,”[6] the man Jesus, the Second Adam, born of the Second Eve, Mary. It is what the ancients called the protoevangelium, the first Gospel or even the source of the Gospel. At the very moment mortality doomed humanity, God foresaw the restoration of mankind’s dignity.

There is yet more of the end contained in this beginning, something much more than a mere literary device.

Here in a garden Adam and Eve brought about death at the tree of life through their disobedience. Someday in another garden (Jn 19:41), the Last Adam (I Cor 15:45) and the New Eve will bring about life (I Cor 15:22) at the tree of death (Gal 3:13) through their obedience.[7]

This turn of events brims with hope and brings great comfort to those who ponder it, for it contains the unmistakable profundity of the merciful love of God.

All of this speaks to the purpose of human life, to the very meaning at the core of our existence. We were made to live in communion with God. We have rejected that communion with the Creator. Yet God does not leave us in this state, but goes to great lengths to make a way for us to have communion with him again. We must not reject or resist the means our salvation – the Death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus – but must embrace it and him and all that he commands us.

If you want to know why you exist, if you want to know the purpose for which you were born, it is this: “increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks.”[8] Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you. If we live in this way we shall walk again in the garden with God; we shall be with him in paradise forever. Amen.

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, On Genesis, II.23n

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the French Bishops, 14 September 2008.

[3] Steve Ray, Genesis: A Bible Study Guide and Commentary (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2023), 69.

[4] Ibid.

[5] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of the Lord of the Rings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994), 262.

[6] Steve Ray, Genesis, 71.

[7] Ibid.

[8] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 310 To Camilla Unwin, 20 May 1969.

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