Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sixth Grade Catechist Confidential: Genesis 3

Because I like to hear myself talk, I volunteered to give the main presentation of sixth and seventh grade religion classes, the content which we discuss when we break into our small groups. So, here's me recreating last Sunday's session on Genesis 3 from notes and memory:

Part 1, Genesis 3:1-13

Okay, instead of reading this all the way through, I want everyone to find Genesis 3 in your bible -- Genesis, it's right at the beginning, everyone got it? -- and we're going to step through it verse by verse.

Verse 1: the serpent, huh? Who is the serpent? Who does he represent? The devil, right. Remember we talked about how scripture can be read as an allegory? The serpent is an allegory for the devil. And do you know what title the Bible gives to the devil? Satan, yes. Lucifer, yes, that's one. But he's also called the Father of Lies. Remember that as we work through what he says here. Listen to what he says: "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" Do you hear that? "Did God really? Are you sure?" He's trying to sow doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve, to make them question God's word. Do they have any reason to question God? Has he ever lied to them?

So what does Eve say? Verses 2 and 3: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die." So tell me: does Eve know what God said? Yeah, pretty clearly. There's no misunderstanding. It's not unclear. She and Adam know exactly what God commanded.

But let's take a step back. What should Eve have said to the serpent, when he showed up and started trying to mess with her head? She could have ignored him, right. She could have told him to go away. The Bible says, "Resist the devil and he will flee." He will flee! I want to you remember that, when you're feeling tempted. You can make the devil flee by resisting him, by standing firm.

Verse 4 and 5: More lies! The serpent is mixing a little truth in with his lies to make them stronger. Who can tell me what's true? "Your eyes will be opened", yes. Do they know what is good and evil after they eat the fruit? They do. But does that make them like God? No, because they don't have the power to always do the good. And God doesn't just know good and evil. God IS the Good. Adam and Eve can't become like God by only knowing good and evil because they can't become the Good.

Verse 6: So tell me about the tree. "Good for food"? "Pleasing to the eye"? "Desirable for gaining wisdom"? Are these bad things? Is it bad to eat good food? Of course not! Is is bad for something to look nice? No! What about gaining wisdom? That's a good thing, right? But they're temporal goods. Are they more important than obeying God? God who created the tree, and created Adam and Eve, and knows what's best for each of them? Is it worth taking these good things against God's command?

Why did God even put the tree in the garden in the first place? Is it because he wanted to tempt them with something nice they couldn't have, because he's mean? Think about your house. Do your parents have any nice things that you're not allowed to touch? Some crazy piece of china that your grandmother left, and it sits in the living room, and you've been told not to touch it? Why do your parents torment you like that? Oh, they don't do it to be cruel? Maybe it's because it's beautiful, and they'd like everyone to see it. Maybe it's because they trust you not to break it because they've asked you not to touch it? Or do your parents keep medicine in the house? What would happen if the baby swallowed all the medicine? It could be pretty bad. Does that mean that no one should be allowed to keep medicine in the house? And Adam and Eve aren't babies. They can understand what God is asking them: Do not touch. Do not eat. Your parents tell you these things all the time, and expect you to obey, and you aren't even adults. So it is unreasonable of God to ask it of Adam and Eve?

What next? "So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." Wait, where's Adam? Standing RIGHT NEXT TO HER? Does he stop her? Does he say, "Wait a minute, honey, let's talk?" Does he punch out the snake? Not much. He's heard the whole thing. Does he know what God said? Yes, because he just heard Eve tell the snake! So, who brought sin into the world? Is it all the woman's fault? Yeah, they deserve equal blame, don't they?

Verse 7: "Then the eyes of both of them were opened" -- well, there's the bit of truth the serpent mixed in -- "and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves." Well, how'd that work out for them? Are they happy now that they're "like gods"? Do they feel fulfilled? Was it all they hoped it would be? How do they feel? Yes, guilty. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Oh my gosh, we're naked! It's awkward and appalling, and I don't see the snake doing any of the work to help them out.

Verse 8 and 9: When does God visit them? Imagine a perfect summer evening when the breeze has just started, and everything is cool and still and peaceful. That's a little piece of heaven, right? And that's when God comes. Why? Is he lonely? No, God can't be lonely. He doesn't need anything to complete him. He comes because he loves his creation. He loves Adam and Eve and wants to share this perfect day with them. Are they excited to see him? Not so much. They hide. What does God do? He calls out to them. Does he know where they are? Does he know what they've done? Of course! He's God! But he wants them to respond to him, to come out because they love him.

Verse 10: What's the lie in what Adam says? "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself." Is he naked? No! He just made himself a loincloth in verse 7! It's like someone saying, "Oh, I can't come to the door, I'm in the shower," when he's sitting on the couch scrolling through his phone. It sounds like he knows he's done wrong, doesn't it?

Verse 11 and 12: Does God throw a lightning bolt at Adam's head? Does he punish him immediately? No, but he tells him exactly what he's done. And what does Adam say? "I disobeyed you, and I'm so sorry. Will you forgive me?" He has a good opening for that, doesn't he? No, he passes the blame. "This woman" -- he can't even say her name! -- "whom you put here with me" -- now who is he trying to blame? Yes, God! -- "she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Real nice showing, Adam. Good way to take responsibility and be a man.

Verse 13: Does God yell at Eve? No, it's just like with Adam. He gives her an opening to explain herself. How does she do? "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it." Did the serpent trick Eve? Hm. She knew exactly what God commanded. She ate the fruit because she wanted to. And like Adam, she passes up her chance to take responsibility and apologize. Good job with knowing good and evil, guys, if you can't do what is good!

Part 2, Genesis 3:13-24

Does God ask the serpent to explain himself? He doesn't have to -- the angels and devils already have the knowledge of what's right. He knows the serpent has acted out of sheer malice. The serpent hasn't stepped up to defend Adam or Eve, has he? He's glad to see them get into trouble!

God's words to the serpent: should we only read them literally? We can -- serpents slither in the dust, and people don't like them much. But let's read them in a different sense. How does Satan operate? By trying to drag us down into the dust and mire of sin. And when we sin, we feel like Adam and Eve did: like we're crawling on our bellies, wallowing in the dirt. That's where Satan is. God isn't just condemning; he's describing.

Who do you think is the woman who is against the serpent? Yes, Mary. And who is her offspring? Jesus! God is making a promise of redemption, and he's telling how it will come about. If a snake is going to strike at a heel, and the heel is about to crush it, where is the heel going to land? Right in the snake's mouth, right? What happens when a heel goes into the snake's mouth? You have to know that if you put your foot in a snake's mouth, you're going to suffer. As Jesus crushes the snake, the snake's fangs go right through his foot and pierce it all the way through. And he knows that will happen, but he crushes the snake anyway, and what happens? The snake is defeated.

What happens after sin? Creation becomes hard and painful. Finding food isn't easy any more. It's become hard work now, raising up new life from the ground. God tells the woman that bearing children will hurt, and this is very true, and you should all go home and thank your mother. But are children a punishment? No! Children are a good, wonderful thing! Did God create anything after man and woman? No, he told them to be fruitful and multiply. Now man and woman are co-creators with God -- co-creators because it is God who chooses when to give life through their actions. Did your parents create your soul? No. God did, and he works through the actions of the man and the woman to bring new life into the world. And every life is unique. Where is your soul before you're born? No, it's not waiting up in heaven. When does a human receive a soul? When he or she is born? No. When he's old enough to talk? When her heart starts beating? No! God creates a unique soul at the very moment a baby is conceived through the actions of his or her parents. Souls don't just float around in heaven. And God doesn't recycle souls either. You don't go from being Cleopatra to being Napoleon to being someone living in Delaware, Ohio. Your soul is unique, created especially for you, to reveal one more facet of God's love. And every soul exists to love and be loved, even when a person can't do anything else. A baby exists to love and be loved, although it can't do anything useful. We used to live with my husband's grandmother, who was 93. At the end of her life, she couldn't do much. Was she useless? No, she existed to be loved, and to help us to learn to love more. And who do our lives belong to? Ourselves? No. They belong to God, and to each other, so that we can love. Have you heard about this lady in Oregon who wants to kill herself because she's dying of cancer and she doesn't want to suffer any more? Does her life belong to her to end when she pleases? No. She didn't make herself. She exists because she is good, and she is to be loved. My husband's grandmother existed to be loved. A baby exists to be loved. We exist only in God, who is Love itself.

And what does God do, now that Adam and Eve have sinned? Does he cut them off forever? Well, first he gives them better clothes, even though they only need clothes because they sinned. Then he moves to protect them again. What good is living forever, if it means living in sin? Do you get banished from a room after you've broken something your parents told you not to touch? You've shown yourself untrustworthy, even though your parents still love you. Same here: God puts them out of the garden and puts a cherubim to guard it. Do you think you could find the tree of life, if you were like Indiana Jones and you followed all the clues in the Bible and fought off the cherubim? Maybe. Who knows? But there's a better, surer way to eternal life, and it's through Jesus who gave his life to bring us back to his Father.


Jenny said...

I wish my kids were in your class! But the crying shame of it all is that when your students get home and their parents ask what they did in class, they probably say "I don't know. Nothing." just like mine do. So I hope that my kids version of "nothing" sounds a lot like your class.

Anonymous said...

Your parish is really lucky to have you as a catechist. Keep it up!

Catholic Bibliophagist said...