Monday, February 27, 2017

The Origins of Choosing –– First Sunday in Lent, Year A –– 5 March 2017

This may be a Sunday to teach a bit about Bible translation in order to dispel notions that have proliferated about original sin. Because the temptation story is, in conventional thinking, about a female’s cunning (i.e., a mistake), it has long fed negative views of females.

This is early Lent and always about Jesus' temptation in the desert. Put some perspective and context on how the church has viewed Satan's role by unmasking the origins of sin. 

Point out that God created the first human not as male but as adam––the one of dust. English translations named adam as “man” which, according to what was called gender neutral language, was intended to mean “human.” Today, people who are listening well will cringe at the assumption that a word which specifically refers to males also, sometimes, stands for all humans.

Omitted from this reading of Genesis is the creation of all creatures and of a “helper” for the adam. Only when the adam is called upon to name the helper, do the names ish and ishshah appear. Gendered distinctions came later than creation. The naming was given to only one creature. This is ripe for a conflict of interest charge if we look at the history of gendered human power struggles.

Most important in this story: In creation, the human is the only creature into whose body God breathes life. The proposal from scripture that we see the image of God in the adam or the ish and the ishshah should alert us to having been given attributes that God also owns, namely, creativity, yearning, love, inquisitiveness, and being capable of eating an apple to find out what it might evoke.

Matthew 4:1-11

The specific nature of the temptations in this episode are Christological (“if you are the Son of God,” 4:3, 6; see 3:17). Satan knows Jesus is God's Son, but seeks to appeal to his humanity. . .

Henri Nouwen has observed that the three temptations are related to three human aspirations that are distractions from God: to be relevant (turn stones into loaves), to be spectacular (throw yourself down), to be powerful (seek the kingdoms of this world; see Matthew 16:26). Matthew's Jesus proclaims the kingdom of heaven and comes to recognize that this kingdom extends beyond the limits of Israel (Matthew 15:28).

Setting the final temptation on a mountain to view the whole world, Matthew's Jesus, the new Moses. . . foreshadows the setting of the Great Commission to proclaim the gospel throughout the world that concludes Matthew's gospel. –– Regina Boisclair

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

. . . God places the human into a garden as steward, offers the human the fruit of all trees, excepting that of the tree of knowledge, and warns that eating from that tree will result in death. This selection omits the story of God's creation of humanity. Irene Nowell observes: “[I]t would be well to read the whole story (2:4a—3:24) in order to find God's command about the trees, the creation of animals, the creation of the sexes, the goodness of sexuality, and the consequences of sin” (Sing a New Song [Liturgical Press, 1993], 31). . . .

[This lection] skips over the creation of gender but introduces the first conversation in the Bible. . . between a talking snake and a woman. . . Identification of the serpent as Satan was a late postexilic Jewish innovation. . . [that] took on an enormous prominence in Christianity.

The woman deliberates and then decides. While her decision was wrong, she must be credited for her reflection and considerations; the man merely eats at her bidding. The serpent's promise that “you will be like gods, knowing good and evil” is indeed fulfilled when the couple senses that nakedness is shameful and fashion loincloths from fig leaves.

The story is a primitive way to speak of the emergence of human consciousness with the ability to assess choices; in Christian tradition, this story accounts for the deficiencies in the human condition and the reason for death. –– Regina Boisclair

Romans 5:12-19

From a poor translation of this passage St. Augustine devised his understanding of original sin. The text actually contrasts Christ's obedience with Adam's disobedience in ways that correspond directly one to the other. Adam's disobedience brought sin into the world, all sin; all are condemned to death that reigned until the coming of Christ.

Christ's obedience brought grace and acquittal that allows one to enter into a right relationship with God, and the reign of eternal life. Paul notes that sin existed before the law and the law added to human sinfulness. This reading contrasts with today's gospel.

Unlike Adam, Jesus resisted his temptations. This reading from Romans also identifies how Jesus rectifies the distortion derived from the original disobedience reported in the first reading. –– Regina Boisclair

Regina Boisclair, a Roman Catholic biblical scholar, teaches at Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska.

Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 15-29.

No comments:

Post a Comment