10B – 9 June 2024

Shame in the Garden

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey

MP3 media (Vigil)

MP3 media (7:30am)

In today’s homily, I reflect on the biblical story of Adam and Eve from Genesis. We delve into the concepts of guilt and shame, exploring how these emotions impact our relationship with God. I highlight the idyllic harmony between Adam, Eve, and God before the serpent’s deception led to their disobedience. We discuss the consequences of sin, the importance of taking responsibility, and the transformative power of seeking forgiveness. By being open to God’s will and embracing His love and mercy, we can find restoration and healing. Join me as we journey towards redemption and reconciliation with God.

(00:00:00) – One of the tasks as priests is to go around and go visiting different people, particularly those who are housebound and unable to come to church. And there was a priest who went and knocked on the door of this particular person’s house, and normally they were at home. And so he was a bit surprised that there wasn’t any answer. A couple of days later, he gets this little text message from the person that simply said, Genesis 3:10. The priest looked up his Bible and opened it to work out what Genesis 3:10 was, which was “I heard the sound of you in the garden, but I was naked, so I hid.” We’ve all had that experience, maybe not exactly that experience, but we’ve had that experience of an embarrassment that time when we’ve just been very overwhelmed by something that’s happened. We’ve said something that we shouldn’t have. There was a faux pas that was said; that experience of being embarrassed or being shamed is a very universal experience. Little children don’t seem to have it, but we inflict it upon them.

(00:01:11) – They soon discover the utterly destructive and awful situation of shame. There are two different kinds of experiences. There’s the experience of guilt when we know that we have done something wrong, and we’re able to identify that thing that I did that was wrong. So we’re able to identify something outside of ourselves, and we feel guilt for doing that thing. But shame is different. Shame is about our own identity. Shame is that recognition that I am, that something that I’ve done is bad because I am. I’m bad at the core. There’s something that’s wrong with me. There’s this fundamental problem that we have, and I think that Genesis three really taps into that experience. It’s this really sad kind of moment, you know, until this point, the man and the woman are walking with God in the cool of the evening, in the middle of the garden. There’s this beauty. The sense of everything is as it’s meant to be. They are just the way that God created them to be. They’re naked but without shame. They’re just present to each other, present to God.

(00:02:37) – There’s this beautiful relationship that exists between them until this figure appears at the beginning of the chapter. And then this, this serpent, this snake, who is described simply as being in the word in the Hebrew is ‘arume.’ ‘Arume’ isn’t necessarily a negative kind of thing. We translate it as shrewd or kind of clever, wise guys. It’s this, this characteristic that is pretty neutral. It doesn’t have that negative tendency. But this ‘arume’ snake starts whispering and slithering around and, and starting to to pervert and twist the words of the Lord, because the Lord had invited them into this fellowship, into this life. He said, look, this is the garden that is designed for you. All of the trees in this garden are available to you. Every single one of these trees that is available to you except one, there’s just this one tree. Because God knows that if you eat of that tree, things will start to change. There will be this fundamental corruption that enters in.

(00:03:53) – And so what happens is that the tree that they decide to look at is the tree that the fruit looks desirable. And so they take the fruit and they eat it. And even though it’s Eve who’s there, who first is the one to take the fruit and to eat it? Adam’s, you know, was really letting the side down. He’s standing there. He knows all of this is kind of happening, and he doesn’t do anything to protect her. He doesn’t do anything to bring the sense of truth back into the fore. He completely and utterly fails the woman and the whole sense of humanity. Of course, these two figures are just paradigms. They’re examples. The word Adam simply means human, the human one. The word Eve simply means life. So we have human and life together. They’re in the garden. Human life is meant to be in this full relationship and this full flourishing with God. But instead there’s this division that enters in. Now, what happens next is where our reading picks up.

(00:05:00) – When the Lord calls to the man and says, where are you? Now, God knows where they are. It’s not about the physical presence, not about the physical location that has changed. Something deep in the depths of their relationship and their core has changed because shame has now entered in. That they’re realising that what they have done has changed something. They look down and they realise that they’re naked. Now they’re ashamed. Now they are not able to simply be in the presence of the God who created them and loves them. Something fundamental has been corrupted. And what is the first impulse of Adam? To blame. How often do we do the same? It was the woman you put with me. She’s the one that caused all of this. And what is Eve saying? It was the serpent, the serpent that you put with me. And what does the serpent say? Well, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The whole sense of that slow corruption. Now, the reality is that if Adam or Eve, if human or life at this point had not blamed somebody else, something else, if they’d simply been able to to be there and to say, sorry, Lord, we stuffed it up.

(00:06:18) – Sorry, Lord, I got it wrong. Sorry, Lord, I sinned against heaven and against you. If they had been able to simply acknowledge and own what had happened, if they had been in a space of guilt and not in a space of shame, everything would have been so radically different, because then they could have been brought back into the God, and they wouldn’t have been condemned to go into exile. At this point, they would have been the hope of redemption already entering into the story at this point. But instead they stay in their shame and they’re unable to find life. And so God knows that the only way that they can be protected and stay safe is to be exiled from the garden. And we hear the curses that are then placed upon the snake. If you keep reading, tradition has kind of said that there are two more sets of curses: the curses against the man, and then curses against the woman. If you think that you haven’t read the text carefully, there are curses against the serpent, yes, but not against the man and the woman.

(00:07:28) – There are consequences of sin. We are not cursed because of sin. There are consequences. There are the ramifications of what happens when we sin. But we get so locked into this pattern of thinking about shame, of being in shame, that we don’t allow God to call us out of it. If we’re able to, to be in a place where we just acknowledge that we’ve done wrong, then we can be forgiven. Then we can offer that that sin and that failure to the Lord and his mercy will wash us. His mercy will be able to cleanse us and heal us, and we’re able to find our freedom to find our life in God. As Jesus says in the gospel today, you know all he is wanting, all he is looking for, for the brothers and sisters of the Lord are simply people who do the will of God. That’s all that is essential for this. We sin. Yes, we get things wrong. Yes, we make mistakes, yes. But to the extent that we stay locked in that; to the extent that we don’t let God enter into that; to the extent that we deny that God even has the power to forgive my sins, that is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

(00:08:42) – That is this blasphemy that we make when we say that, no, God, I don’t want you to be in my life. I don’t want you to do that work of bringing restoration, of bringing healing. That was the mistake that Adam and Eve made by not letting God into this space, by not allowing his love and his mercy that he had already shown them, and he already demonstrated through those gentle walks in the evening, we need to allow God just to bring us into that place. It’s not necessarily who we are or the hierarchy of all of these things, but simply are we open to God’s will. Do I want to follow our God? Do I want to serve him? Do I want to long for him? Do I want to spend time in prayer? Do I want to do the right thing? If we’re beginning in any of those ways to start to follow the will of God, then he can do that work. He can pour out his love and his mercy upon us.

(00:09:43) – Then he can bring us into his family, and then we can be redeemed and restored, and we can find our place in the fruitfulness of the garden of God.

This Sunday is celebrated as the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the patronal feast of the Diocese of Wollongong

And I forgot to press record at the 10:30am Mass – of course, it was the best one! #shame

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