Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday in the 5th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
It’s Personal…

Readings: Genesis 3:1-8; Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7; Mark 7:31-37

There’s a way of looking at sin and forgiveness that likens the whole process to sending one’s clothes to the laundry. After some time spent living in the world, one’s clothes inevitably get soiled – we inevitably break some of the rules we are meant to live by, we get stained by sin. So one pays a visit to the laundrymat – we go to confession – throws the soiled clothes into the washer and voila, they come out spotless. Then it’s off into the world again till the next time we break some rules and need another good wash.

Helpful as this metaphor is, it does suffer from one limitation. When we think only in terms of doing the laundry, our experience of falling into sin and being forgiven can seem very mechanical, very routine and impersonal. Which is quite a stark contrast to the experience of sin and forgiveness described in our readings today.

Here we see how deeply personal is the whole process. We see how the man and the woman are tempted to taste something that seems better than what God has already provided them. And as they flirt with the temptation, they begin to doubt the providence of their loving Creator. Their hearts begin to turn away from God and towards the enticing prospect of a false independence. You shall be like gods. More than a mere staining of clothing – they had none to begin with – this is a breaking of relationship, a betrayal of trust, a rejection of friendship. It’s personal.

The results of the sin too are deeply personal, and interpersonal. Shame enters into the picture. No longer are they comfortable being naked before each other. They sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths. And no longer do they feel at ease walking naked in the company of God, listening to God’s voice. They heard the sound of the Lord God… and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. And we know what can happen when we persist in hiding, when we continue to ignore God’s voice. We gradually forget what it sounds like. We become deaf to the sound of God’s call, even as it becomes muffled by the various other noises to which we attune our hearts.

Yet the good news is that God does not leave us to our own devices but continues to seek us out. In the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God breaks through our deafness, and speaks a Word of love loud and powerful enough to restore our hearing. Isn’t this what the healing of the deaf-mute signifies? God helps us all to hear again. God restores our relationships with him and with one another. God loosens our tongues to sing God’s praises so that others may know of the wondrous deeds God has done and is doing on our behalf. Where once we were impelled to hide from God, now we are enabled, as we heard in the psalm, to find in God our secure hiding place. Once again, it’s all deeply personal.

How would taking things more personally affect our relationships today?

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