Grace to you!
We continue our reflection based on The Book of Genesis. To access our earlier reflections on this theme please visit the following links--Mondayand Tuesday.
Today, I focus on the distinctive nature of the human kind as those specially made by God and called to responsibility not only to oneself, but to physical creation. The lesson is drawn from Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17.
If you read Genesis chapters one and two, you may notice two versions of the story of creation. Some scholars call the first version (Gn 1:1-2:3), the first account of creation; and the following (Gn 2:4-3:24), the second account of creation. We know from biblical studies that those reflect two traditions, the first Elohist (E tradition) and the second Yahwist (J tradition). The Elohist often uses Elohim to refer to God’s name. The Yahwist tradition from time to time uses the sacred and reserved name YHWH (Yahweh).
There are different opinions about each of these traditions and the significance of their narratives to the creation story. The study of these different opinions is not the subject of our reflection. By the way, I am not equipped to engage in such complex discussion.
Suffice it for me to borrow from the Scripture scholar Sarna (1989), who sees in both traditions, narrative of the same truth of creation presented with two different focal points. The first focuses on the prominence and transcendence of God. It opens by showing God’s creation of “heaven and earth” from the beginning (Gn 1:1). The second emphasizes the place and role of the human kind in relation to creation by God and shows divine immanence. It opens its narrative by reversing the order from “heaven and earth” to “earth and heaven”. “In the day that the LordGod made the earth and the heavens” (Gn 2:4). “While God the Creator was the primary subject of the previous chapter, the focus of attention now [in the second] shifts to humankind.” (Sarna, 1989, p. 16).
This change, it seems to me, shows the direction of the second version. It draws us to pay attention to its focus. It is a consideration of earthly things in relation to the heavenly reality. Thus, the God who seems distant from us in the first creation story, who speaks, and things come to be, is the same God who is close to His creatures.
God walks the earth in the symbolic image of the Garden. God touches the dirt/dust to make the man and the woman out of the dust (Gn2:7). God carefully molds the man and the woman. God identifies the human condition and the human need for food, life and companionship. God breathes on the human kind for life (Gn7). God establishes the man and the woman and charges them to be responsible stewards over the rest of creation (Gn 2:15).
God is presented as being very close to creation and to the man and the woman in particular. Yet God establishes the limits towards which our relationship with the things of the world should be.
Man was to “till and keep” the garden (Gn 2:16). In other words, we have to work and do so responsibly.
Even with the right to eat of the plants and the vegetables, there are limits too. Though the first man (and woman) were free to till and eat, they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of the good and evil. “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gn 2:16-17).
The lesson from this complex narrative communicates to us some truths worth reflecting on. From the start, we are to work to earn our living. Work is part of Divine creative plan. To work is to fulfill our destiny as humans. As the Church reminds us, “work is a duty” (CCC 2427) and “In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature.” (CCC 2428). We have to work and pay our bills. As Saint Augustine suggests. “Work as if everything depended on you. And Pray as if everything depended on God.” This balance is the way to God. However, we are to guard against exploitation of one another for that is not proper stewardship towards creation. “Work is for man, not man for work” (CCC 2428).
Second, I see divine will for human sense of responsibility. We are responsible to make the world a better place. We continue to walk in the light of divine plan towards the goal of ultimate fulfillment. We are responsible in our unique ways to lead to the perfection of the temporal order.
Third, our freedom is never absolute. We have to know that there are limits to many things around us. Yet we better respect the laws of nature. We are free to till and work and eat, yet we have to respect the rights of others to their property and freedom too. We better know that our freedom doesn’t mean we can do anything. Some choices have negative consequences symbolized by “death.”
I pray that in all we do, we live our live with grace-filled sense of responsibility in our duties to oneself and the duties to the rest of creation. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 5: Gn 2:4B-9,15-17; Mk 7:14-23]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.