Scripture: Lectionary 333: Genesis 3:1-8. Psalm 32:1-126.96.36.199. Mark 7:31-37
Original sin is the theme we take from our reading from Genesis today. The
story told in Genesis is about the fall of Eve and Adam. Both are
responsible for their decision not to listen to God and to turn to the
tantalizing thought that a clever “serpent” makes known to them about the
tree of life. The symbolism and the actors are all too dramatic for us not
to be attracted to and puzzled by the original failing of humankind (ADAMAH
woman and man). We have the story from the point of view of the Yahwist
tradition that makes it rather simple and straightforward. It is very
human language and almost seem simplistic to us today whether in the
original language in which it was written or in the thousands of
translations it has undergone. We would probably not have been so certain
this was “original sin” had it not been for St. Paul’s letter to the Romans
where he clearly goes into the effect of the Genesis drama involving God
and the two representatives of our species. The language in the Yahwist is
also highly symbolic but easily understood by those who have reached the
age of reason and who can read.
Paul’s interpretation is what gives us the foundation for a teaching called
“original sin.” It would be helpful for us to reread Romans 5:12-20. The
interpretation is not literal but symbolic and typological as well as
allegorical. It is however definitely clear and it is inspired since it
belongs to the canonical scriptures that all Christians agree on. Perhaps,
it is good to know that the Jews do not interpret it as orignal sin but
they do have a traditional expression that helps us to see how humans
throughout the ages do waffle between good and bad choices in a lifetime.
Maybe that inclination toward the wrong decision is a hangover from the
original breakers of God’s simple commandment to them in the garden of
Hebrew has an expression that gets close to our concept of original sin. It
is the evil inclination called “yetser ha-ra. The Talmud of Jerusalem says,
“The yetser ha-ra only desires what is forbidden.” The yetser ha-ra is in
fact the aggresive, impulsive inclination, also God given, also necessary
to human survival, but to be treated with extreme watchfulness. Rav Assi
said, “In the beginning the yetser-ha-ra is like a spider’s web, but in the
end–like wagon ropes.” ( Lewis Glinert in the JOYS OF HEBREW, P 260).
In more contemporary theology one sees the effect of the fall as the social
atmosphere that surrounds us with war, violence, and abuse. Sin is
described as a missing the mark or a turning away from the Creator.
Whether we accept the doctrine of original sin or not, something is there
within us that inclines us to make some bad choices. And only God can help
us to overcome some of our own evil attachments, addictions, or
inclinations. There is always hope for us. Paul realized that and in
chapter eight he perks us up with a commentary on God’s Spirit working
within us for the good not the bad. Our journey of faith consists in
taking up the challenge of each day and living it out with hope while
making good choices about what we do and say during this particular day.
Again a remedy for sin is to consider the present moment as a sacred
sacramental one for living in the presence of God and not trying to hide
among the leaves. Amen.