It’s clear that it is the woman —Eve — who is the primary evildoer in the ancient story of the creation of the world that we’ve just heard once again from the Book of Genesis. She was attracted, we are told, by the forbidden fruit because it seemed to her that eating it would enable her and her mate to acquire the awesome power of the Creator.
After all, hadn’t the serpent told her that God was deceiving her by saying that she and Adam would die if they ate that fruit? Wasn’t that obviously a poorly disguised way of God protecting God’s exclusive power?
Eve took the bait and then the fruit, ate it, and gave some to her husband, who foolishly trusted her. The fantastic fable goes on to inform us that they both lost their innocence and began the world of sin and shame that we have inherited.
The Scriptures, the bible, are the product of both human and divine authorship; in order to encounter what is of God in them, we have first to deal with the human element, which often enough is false. And so we have animals that speak, God creating humans the way an artist molds pottery, and much later the devil taking Jesus to high places, tempting him with the gift of all the kingdoms he sees.
In the passage in today’s liturgy we are told that it is the woman who leads the man into sin and death. It would be impossible to assess how much damage that passage alone has done in the course of human history by painting women as a source of corruption of men and by leading men to regard women as naturally inferior to themselves.
We have chosen to be Christians because we believe that Jesus, above all other human beings who ever existed, shows us how to be the humans we were created to be. Lent is that special time of the church year that invites us to examine our conduct, our lifestyle, our version of being human — and to compare it with the model we see in Jesus.
Attempts at changing our behavior, our habits of so many years, I’m sure you agree, will be a far greater penance than giving up candy or alcohol or movies for the 40 days of Lent.
Why not start with that most basic matter of how we honor and respect and listen to each other as equals before our creator — or how we don’t? Why don’t we work, starting today, on the prejudices and mindsets we’ve inherited or learned along the way? Why don’t we try to be humbly and sincerely open to what others tell us about our offensive behavior and the attitudes it reveals?
That passage from the Book of Genesis and the bad rap it seems to have given women isn’t really about two historical persons. They are fictional and it is a story, a fable, in which those characters are really you and I. It’s we who tend to do what pleases us, all else notwithstanding. You and I who may never have fully outgrown our infancy. Deep down, we want to be like God — totally independent and autonomous. That’s what the Scriptures warn us about: we are creatures, never more and never less. But our creatureship is not to be regretted. It should be cherished because we are the creatures of God’s infinite love! And what is promised us is an eternal share in the Creator’s own life!
What more could we live for than that!?