Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Homily for Wednesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time

Homily for Wednesday
Week 5 of Ordinary Time
February 8, 2017
Gen 2: 4b-9, 15-17
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.

“At the time when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens…” (Gen 2: 4b).

Monday and yesterday we heard what’s often called the 1st creation story, which was rather like both a catalog and a hymn.  Today and tomorrow we hear the 2d creation story, more like a narrative—a good story; and it will continue with the adventures—or, rather, the misadventures—of the people in the story.

No doubt you’ve heard many times that the Bible isn’t teaching us science.  It’s more concerned to teach us about the universe’s relationship to its Creator, and man’s place in the universe and in God’s plan, than about how the universe was created.  About that, we need believe only that God created it; it didn’t create itself.  These stories are about the meaning of the universe.

The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole
So we’re dealing with a story here in Gen 2.  If Jesus can tell a parable about a father welcoming back a wayward son, to convey the truth of God’s forgiving love (Luke 15:11-32), then the sacred writers of Gen 1-11 can tell us a whole series of stories to teach us not about cosmology or paleontology but about our human relationship with God and with God’s world.

For instance, we learn today that creation was incomplete until God created man.  The earth, we hear, was barren, for “there was no man to till the soil” (2:5).  Then God creates the man, who is integral with the earth—created out of the dirt or clay of the earth.  Even the Hebrew word used, adam, meaning “man” or “human being” (it’s not a personal name), is related to the word for “earth” or “dirt,” adamah.

But what God shapes from the mud isn’t whole until God breathes life into it.  In ch. 1, we read that God created men and women in his own image (v. 27).  Here we read that God’s own life-breath infuses life into us.  It’s another way of saying that human beings are made in God’s image.  Much later in the Scriptures—in John’s Gospel—we’ll hear Jesus breathing that same Spirit upon the apostles, restoring the image of God in them after their failures during the Lord’s passion and empowering them to restore the divine image in men and women by forgiving sins (20:19-23).

Then God plants a wonderful garden for the man—a royal park, as it were.  The Hebrew word used suggests a great royal garden that would be truly impressive in a land where there’s so much desert.  What a home for the man!  God commands him to tend that garden, which means not only that work is basic to who we are, even before the Fall, but also that God has made us his colleagues, his partners, in caring for his wonderful creation.

We could also comment on the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  But that’s enuf for one weekday homily.  You get the idea of what the inspired writer is teaching us about how important we are to God.

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