Friday, February 11, 2011

The Original Mess

As I read today's first reading of the Mass from Genesis, those immortal words uttered by Oliver Hardy come to mind: another fine mess, though here we have the original mess.   The account of the fall of man and woman is both symbolic and tragic; here is the loss of innocence, the victory of evil and dispossession.  Man and woman reach out, tempted by the devil, to become god, or so they think, and then, when they have jumped over the boundary, lose confidence in their humanity and lose the original blessing.  When God next appears, for the first time they hide from him - fear has entered the world, God is now alien.  The attempt to become like him has reduced Adam and Even to cowering behind a bush terrified of him.

The great temptation which is particular to us as human beings with all the talents we have is that of seeing ourselves as God.  Adam and Eve yielded to the temptation to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This does not symbolise knowing the difference between good and evil - they knew that already, but rather the temptation to decide for themselves what was good and evil - a tendency which still flourishes today: in a phrase "ungodly pride".  

Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch point out in their commentary of Genesis, that the serpent, the devil, led them to think that God was holding things back from them, preventing their true flourishing by imposing a limit.  The devil tells them that God is unjust, he is jealous of them and so tries to enslave them and deprive them of what is their right - sound familiar?  We hear it all the time - just replace God with the Church and we have the eternal whine of the dissident: it was first heard in Eden.

Providentially, as we reflect on the fall of humanity, the feast we celebrate today, Our Lady of Lourdes, reminds us of the raising of humanity.  Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette and confirmed the proclamation of Blessed Pope Pius IX that she was conceived immaculate, and in her message reminds us all of the path to joining her in that sinless destiny, the renewal: penance, prayer and adherence to the teachings of her Son.  Mary is the second Eve, the sinless one who reverses Eve's disobedience by her obedience.  Jesus is the second Adam who reverses Adam's fall by pride by being raised on the Cross in humility and poverty to win eternal life for us.  In Lourdes, in the midst of a rationalist Enlightenment rebellion against faith in Europe, Mary calls us back to faith, to the One we can believe in. 

Synonymous with the sick, Lourdes is a place of healing, of body, but more importantly of souls.  The original wound of the fall is healed by the waters of grace flowing from Christ, these waters are symbolised by the waters which sprung up from the earth at the grotto just as Christ, the source of grace, sprung from the earth on Easter Sunday.  As Our Lady calls her children to Lourdes, she does so to bring them to her Son to find in him our eternal life.  No more to cower behind a bush fearful of our nakedness, she invites us to stand in the clear light of the Gospel with her, adoring her Son.

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