Gen 2: 5-17; 3:1-7
Luke 13: 31-35
May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Can you remember the first time you wilfully disobeyed your parents?
I am afraid I can’t. That not because I was a perfect child, I wasn’t, it’s just because of my age – I simply can’t remember the first time!
However I was lucky enough to be blessed as a parent with two beautiful daughters and I certainly can remember the first time they wilfully disobeyed me! Obviously when they are very young they make mistakes in all innocence, they don’t know that it is a bad idea to stick their little fingers in an electrical socket, so conveniently placed at toddler level. Out of our love for them we do our best to keep them out of danger and to teach them right from wrong. But there comes a day when in spite of our warnings, by the power of their own free will, they choose to ignore us and at that moment their innocence is lost in an act of wilful disobedience. Every parent shares the pain of that moment, knowing that things can never go back to where they were just a few seconds ago, that trust is gone and a new relationship is entered into. Children need practice to deceive and we spend our lives perfecting the art, the trouble is most of the time the only person we deceive is ourselves! We certainly don’t deceive our Heavenly Father, He sees straight through us as any good parent that cares will, when their children wilfully ere or stay.
Just like he saw through Adam and Eve’s attempt to deceive when they wilfully disobeyed Him and in the process lost their innocence. Whether you believe that the story of the Garden of Eden is literal history, or whether you prefer to think of it as a short story designed as a sort of parable by God to shed light for us on His relationship with us, disobedience to God’s will is at it’s heart. God told Adam not to eat and he ate. The Hebrew word Adam means all men or human kind. From human disobedience to God’s will spring all the troubles in our lives. If we could only just obey God’s will we could all return again to Eden.
Yet the ancient song for Easter Eve, Felix culpa, paradoxically calls Adam’ fall a happy fault! Why? Because if there were no fall from grace, there would be no need for Jesus! Jesus sole purpose on earth was to redeem fallen humanity. Of course God would rather that we had never sinned. But God gave us freedom, so it was inevitable that we would eventually stick our fingers in the electric socket despite His warnings not to. And the only way back for us out of this mess was for Jesus to redeem us.
St Paul teaches that it was Christ’s obedience which undid all this harm caused by Adam’s disobedience: ‘Just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.’ This may make God sound like a medieval feudal lord keeping his peasants in order. But think of it instead as a loving parent asking you to do something for them. Then obedience becomes your glad and willing response to the request. If only we knew how much God loves us, we would willingly obey Him. Jesus obeyed his Father’s wish that He should die on the cross, because it was the only way you and I could be saved. The Son of God must love us an awful lot to be willing to die for us in such a manner. So God must love us too, not as a feudal Lord, but as our heavenly Father. Then obeying God becomes a glad response to our Father’s love.
The great Cardinal Newman portrays this in The Dream of Gerontius. There the angel sings:
Praise to the holiest in the height…
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came,
O wisest love! that flesh and blood
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive, and should prevail.
These words are certainly very beautiful. But as we heard earlier ‘Adam’ in Hebrew means ‘everyman’ in effect all of humanity. But this isn’t a history lesson about some thing that happened many thousands of years ago. It is, in my opinion, a parable of what’s going on today, here and now, all around us in your heart and in mine. God has given us freedom and God has given us choice: to obey God or to disobey Him. But we are also told that our actions can have disastrous consequences, not only for ourselves but for others who suffer as a result of what we do. Of course, in a perfect world, it would be much better if we always obeyed God’s commandments. But even if we don’t – and to date nobody but Jesus ever has, completely – God can still bring good out of evil. God can teach us the value of obedience, as we teach our children, so that they are restrained from harmful actions. And by leading us to repent and to say sorry for our sins, and accept God forgiveness as from a loving parent.
Lent is a time for penitence, for examining our good and bad actions, saying sorry, and learning never to do again those things that hurt the loving heart of God so deeply. But it can also be a time to thank God for His grace and forgiveness. Even out of our sins, terrible as they are, God can bring forth good, by teaching us to love not only God but to also love our neighbours as ourselves. So the sins of Adam, the whole human race, are undone, and paradise regained.