Saint Ignatius College Geelong

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    Faith Matters - Irreducible

    Article by Mr Brendan Nicholls

    Faith Matters – Irreducible

    Throughout this week we celebrate International Women’s Day. As a Catholic community this celebration of justice is central to who we are, who our young men and women will be come and what our shared future will look like. What we celebrate is in fact deeper than gender and social progress. During this week we celebrate the irreducible nature of God and humanity. 

    During this week there can be tension as our Tradition is often portrayed as male dominated and conservative in nature. There is certainly some truth in this at a cultural level. However, when Scripture it viewed to support a perception of males being superior than females a mistake is made. The narrative of Adam and Eve is at times viewed to support this negative and incorrect theme. Genesis recoded truth as revealed by God to humans thousands of years ago. Although we do not know when this story was formalised what we do know is that it’s true. What is true is not found on the surface in the narration, the truth contained is deeper and needs to be examined to be understood correctly.

    In our Tradition the story of Adam and Eve is not to be understood literally. What is contained in this myth is undeniable truth. Although a myth it needs to be viewed as an account not a fairy tale. There was an Adam and there was an Eve. God spoke with them and revealed truth. When this happened, where this happened and what names they actually used is a mystery.

    To unpack this story, we need to begin by reflecting upon the Trinity and their decision to make humankind in ‘their’ image and unfathomable gift of the free will allowed human beings to knowingly choose bad over good (Gen 2:9).

    What needs to be more carefully considered in Genesis is the account of the First Sin and Punishment (Genesis 3:1-24). The account speaks of the ‘woman’ who is deceived by the serpent, who in turn gave the fruit to Adam. In considering this narrative it’s easy to interpret the events in a literal manner. In doing so we fall short and fail to grasp what is being revealed. We need to look at this point in context. Immediately prior to this account we read that Adam and Eve are one! (Genesis 2:23). The First Sin and Punishment is not an illustration of women being easily deceived or the one who tempts the man. Two are in-fact one. Both are equal and both chose freely knowing the will of God before doing so. We may misread the narrative of Adam and Eve if we read it literally or are simplistic in interpreting the truth contained.

    In knowing this, we understand that what is revealed is that we have the choice to do what is forbidden by God. We can choose what is good or what is morally evil; big or small. This truth is both individual and communal. Regardless of gender we can freely choose what is wrong or what is better. When we knowingly choose wrong we enter into sin. This word that is repellent. Culturally the word sin has a lot of negative historically baggage. Theologically the word is vital to our understanding of self, human nature and the reason Jesus was incarnate and came to be with us. The word is repellent on multiple levels and rightly so.

    When tempted it’s easier to enter into sin. In friendships, relationships or as a society we are more likely to be influenced to make a choice that we know is not reflective of our true self. When we make these bad choices we are emotionally affected. Our conscience will not let the matter rest. Our actions and choices are sinful and we recoil from them and the word that describes them. We then experience an inner torment from which we are prompted to seek forgiveness and redeem ourselves.

    As we enter into Lent through our celebration of Ash Wednesday we are called to review our lives and enter into a period of repentance, service and prayer. To be true to our Baptismal promises we need to be aware of our imperfections and seek to become who we truly are. We are called to make change in our lives so that we are and are seen to be more and more like Jesus. The greatest challenge to this is our ego and inability to acknowledge our sinfulness.

    Ironically this problem is also illustrated in the Genesis narrative. In seeking to shift the blame to the temptation in the serpent or woman the opportunity for atonement was lost. When we read the account and view the woman as the one who chose first or tempted the man we blind ourselves to the deep revelation that has been offered. Both fell equality to temptation and sinfulness. Two who were in-fact one each freely chose to do what God had forbidden. The blame is personal and to be accepted. Adam and Eve failed to respond to their conscience and sort to shift the blame (Genesis 3:12-13). We often do the same and in doing so find that we distance ourselves from God.

    In being made in the image and likeness of God we are truly human. Our Tradition leads us to refer to God the ‘Father’ or as ‘Him’. Our words and historical practice do not reflect the truth of God. Our words cannot adequately express who God is. What we can say about God though is that perfect, eternal and pure. To be true to the fullness of this Divine nature we are created male and female. Man or woman alone cannot reflect the wholeness of God. In community or in marriage men and women work together in harmony and are an illustration of God’s image. Man and woman come together with God to create new life through love and become more whole as a result.

    As we celebrate International Women’s Day I encourage you to re-read and consider in a new way the narrative of Adam and Eve found in Genesis and the way in which we reflect God’s image as a male or female. Seek to resolve on a personal level the gift or free will and our ability to sin. I encourage you to enter into Lent seeking repentance for the things both small and large that hold you back from the fullness of who you can be and the presence of God. Embrace your wholeness that is not bound by gender this week and live faithfully your call to holiness – that includes supporting those in need and removing injustice in your community and in the world – through your personal relationship with Jesus. 

    Yours in Christ,

    Brendan Nicholls  Liturgy Coordinator




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