June 10th, the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time this year, announces Christ’s victory over our sin and the Devil. Through her lectionary readings, the Church, our mother and teacher, gives us an opportunity to reflect on Adam’s original condition in paradise, on the fall and our fallen condition now, on Christ’s victory over our sin and the devil, and on how we can taste the new creation ‒ heaven ‒ even in this life.
The first reading is the account of the fall of Adam and Eve from Genesis 3:9-15.
The Fall from What?
God created Adam and Eve in the original condition of holiness and justice (CCC 375).
Original holiness was “friendship with his Creator,” based on sharing “divine life” (CCC 374-375). Original justice for the man was the harmony that existed “with himself [, with Eve,] and with the creation around him” (CCC 374, 376).
The Catechism tells us that “As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die” (CCC 376). In addition, work was a blessing without the element of toil it would later acquire (CCC 378).
In this original condition, man had “mastery” not just over creation but also primarily over himself. The man with “mastery of self” was free of the concupiscence all of us now experience in this life: “the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason” (CCC 377): in other words, sensuality, greed, and pride.
Genesis 3—our first reading specifically—is the original sin. This chapter is the seemingly naive but profound and mysterious divinely inspired account of the fall of man from original holiness and justice to the negative conditions described above: alienation from God, from himself, from other persons, and from the created world, along with toil, suffering and death.
But the Responsorial psalm invites us to remember that, “With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.” Because God is merciful, kind, forgiving, and attentive to man, all man really has to do when he sins is to turn back to God, to repent. Man just needs to trust God, to trust that God really is this kind of good person. This is why one of the basic forms of prayer is reparation, saying sorry to God for the evil we have done and the evil everyone else has done.
Because God is good, He begins the redemption of fallen and wounded man immediately. He begins by asking questions. He does not ask because He does not know the answers. Rather, he wants Adam and Eve to think about who they are, what they have done, and why they have done it. God’s questions for Adam and Eve are also good questions for us. After all, how can a person repent if he does not realize what he has done wrong?
In what Adam did and what man has done, has man done the will of God? Our Lord says in today’s Gospel reading that doing the will of God is what makes one a member of the family of God. By their actions, Adam and Eve ‘said’ they did not want to be in God’s family. When asked what they had done, Adam and Eve can only blame someone else. Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent.
Notice that God does not ask the serpent why he has tricked Eve with his lie. Satan is irreformable, but man is not, so long as his earthly life continues. Man can repent if he comes to his senses.
The account of the Fall also includes the promise of salvation. Despite the original sin, despite the fact that Adam and Even ‘said’ they didn’t want to be in God’s family anymore, God is still merciful, kind, forgiving, and attentive to man. The protoevangelium, or first announcement of the Gospel, is the prophesy of the “woman,” Mary, the New Eve, and ‘her offspring,” Christ, the New Adam. Christ will overcome Satan (CCC 410-412). Satan is irreformable, but one is coming who will defeat him.
Trial and Tribulation
The Second reading reminds us that this life is a time of trial and tribulation, despite all the goodness and all the kinds of happiness we also experience. What is good about the Gospel, which means good tidings, is the promise of our own resurrection and the fullness of eternal life, along with the possession of “everything” good (Paul even says, “Everything indeed is for you”).
I think a key to understanding how all of today’s lectionary readings fit together is in the Gospel acclamation:
Now the ruler of the world will be driven out, says the Lord;
and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.
To explain, in the Gospel reading, on returning to his hometown, Our Lord and his disciples encounter three groups: the thick crowd of onlookers, the scribes who said he was demonic, and his family who thought he was insane.
It was unusual for Christ to defend himself before men. But here he first uses reason to show the absurdity of attributing his preaching and miracles to Satan. Then, Our Lord teaches that his true family consists of those who do the will of God. On the surface, this looks like a rejection of Jesus’ immediate family, but we know that no one did the will of God like his mother Mary. And Christ’s cousin (brother) James would become the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.
The scribes made the rash claim about Christ, “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” But according to the protoevangelium there is enmity between Christ and Satan: “he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” In fact, Satan, this “ruler of the world,” no longer has any power over us, unless we give it to him. We can all be drawn to Christ, instead, if we will allow ourselves to be drawn. We are at war. Christ wants to be our ally and save us. Satan wants to ruin us.
Foretaste of Paradise
In heaven, if we make it there, we will be in a state in Christ’s new creation in which we will not only regain but surpass Adam’s original friendship with God, his original sharing in His life, and Adam’s original harmony within himself, with other persons, and with creation (CCC 374).
Yet even now we can re-taste original holiness and justice and anticipate this final “surpassed” condition.
Friendship with God, internal peace and harmony, friendship with all men, and mastery of creation are consequence of living the Catholic faith. Heaven really does begin on earth for those who cooperate with the grace, which God lavishes upon us: it is for “whoever does the will of God.”