Living from Sunday

Dear Friends,

In the past few weeks, I have written to you about two authors whose work I find very insightful: the late Australian sister and biblical scholar Verna A. Holyhead, and the American psychiatrist and author Curt Thompson. As I read over some of the comments that each of them has written on this Sunday’s reading from the Book of Genesis, I once again was moved by the wisdom that they have to offer. Allow me to share with you some of what they wrote.

In giving background information on the reading from Genesis, Holyhead writes:

We cannot deny that life is filled with ambiguities, that we feel a split within ourselves, a sense of the loss of harmony and integrity; that both individually and collectively we recognize a struggle within us between good and evil, light and darkness. We may interpret and name this struggle in different ways; the Jewish-Christian tradition names it sin, and today’s first reading is a grappling with its painful effects that are mirrored in our own human lives. A mythic story is the vehicle for truths that are carried to us. “Myth” should not be equated with “untrue,” for in fact a myth is a story that, especially through the use of symbol, conveys deep and complex truths in a more accessible and memorable way. (Verna A. Holyhead, Sowing the Seed: Welcoming the Word in Year B, p. 119)

I really appreciate the way Holyhead suggests that the myth narrative in the reading from Genesis conveys “deep and complex truths in a more accessible and memorable way” than the kind of “reporting” that we sometimes imagine the Bible is trying to offer us.

I find some of Curt Thompson’s reflections on this passage to be an insightful interpretation of those truths. He writes, for example:

Since the first violation involved God (he made the serpent, after all; and the serpent blamed God in his wounding of the woman), we have set him up as the source of pain. Like Adam, we blame him as the most responsible party for all the ills of the world, and it is with him that we wage war more deeply and historically than anyone else. We ultimately believe that God is at war with us, and like Adam and Eve we believe he is coming to kill us. No wonder, then, that when we had the chance, we killed him when we killed Jesus. (The Deepest Place: Suffering and the Formation of Hope, hereafter TDP, pp. 22-23)

Building on this insight, and reflecting on the suffering that we all experience in our lives, Thompson asserts, “It is not difficult in these, the deepest places of suffering, to believe, albeit quite unconsciously, that the God of the Bible is indeed at war with us. This makes hope even more difficult to imagine.” (TDP, p, 27) Thompson then adds:

But the gospel tells a different story. A story of a different God than the gods we have imagined. A God who has initiated the peacemaking process. A God who has never been at war with us in the first place.

This God has been willing for us to blame him for everything that is wrong with our lives and with our world, while in fact we were responsible. He has been willing to take it, waiting for Jesus to arrive so that he could show us in real time and space, in embodied form, just how true this is.

In Jesus, God has sent the ultimate emissary of peace. Peace that must be made. And made, mind you, as an effort of very hard work. The story of Scripture tells us that Jesus has not just come to make peace—rather, he himself is that very peace. (TDP, p. 28; emphasis in the original)

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus’ own family members and contemporaries struggled to imagine and believe that God would send Jesus to be our peace. If we are honest, we often face the same difficulty, especially when we and those we love are suffering.

That is why Jesus doesn’t just tell us he wants to be our peace—he embodies that truth. As he celebrates the Eucharist with us and gives himself to us in the Eucharist, the Risen Jesus makes himself completely vulnerable “in real time and space,” so that as we experience “in a more accessible and memorable way” that he is our peace.

Peace,

Father Le

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