Last week and this, Level III is studying Chapter 3 of Genesis. This is the story of humanity's disobedience of God's command and the consequences of disobedience - in a nutshell, a study of sin.
It is helpful to understand the big picture of our curriculum over the past couple months. Because we aren't studying sin just for sin's sake, nor to "feel bad" or "feel guilty." In fact, the intent of the overall curriculum is to educate toward hope: we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Kingdom of God!
We began January with a two-part study of the two Creation accounts preserved in the Bible (Genesis chapters 1 and 2). We have repeatedly stated that these are not science texts. People from the beginning of their intelligent consciousness, from all cultures and parts of the Earth, have looked around and wondered, "How did all this come to be? Who has done all this for us?" The Creation accounts in the Bible are a response: crafted long, long ago; handed down by word of mouth for hundreds of years; and finally written down by the Hebrew people into the book called Genesis. The people who wrote it lived (and live now) in a special relationship with God called covenant, and so the accounts reflect the abundant gifts from God to humanity.
We followed the two Creation studies with two weeks on the miracles of Jesus. When Jesus lived on this earth - when he walked and talked and breathed just like us - many people asked him about the Kingdom of God, what is it like. Jesus responded through his words (the parables) and his actions (the miracles) so people could see glimpses of the Kingdom. Words and actions have shown us glimpses of the Kingdom throughout history: certainly through the parables and miracles of Jesus; but even before that through the words and actions of the prophets; and even today through Jesus' words and actions planted within our hearts through listening to God's Word, celebrating liturgy, and receiving the sacraments.
As a result of our miracle studies, we can list some things that the Kingdom of God is, such as no death; resurrection; complete forgiveness; no pain, suffering, disease, or disability; equal distribution of resources leading to satisfaction; etc. And through the studies, we can see what the Kingdom is not, such as death; suffering; inequality; hunger; disease; etc.
As we consider what the Kingdom of God is and is not, we begin to question, as people throughout history have also questioned: Why is Creation, which began so perfectly and beautifully through God's goodness, power, and gift, so imperfect, so "messed up" at times? Why do bad things happen?
This brings us to our study these two weeks. Genesis Chapter 3 provides a response, spoken for a long time and then written down by the Hebrew people, which is not a science text, but rather uses metaphors to help us envision the disobedience by humanity of God's command and the consequences of that disobedience.
The consequences are broad and deep. They affect the serpent, woman, and man, certainly, but they also affect the very earth, which changes from
Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food .... (Gen 2:9)
Cursed is the ground because of you! ... Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you ....
Ultimately, the consequence is discord amongst all elements of Creation and distance between God and humans, whose relationship in the beginning was so very close, immanent.
Now, this would be a rather depressing ending to a lengthy study unless we ask a further question: Is that the end of the story? Does God discard Creation as a failed project at the end of Genesis Chapter 3? Our faith answers a resounding, "No!"
So, our entire study for six sessions begins by providing two rails, as for a train:
- Creation: a beautiful time of harmony and love in which God creates humans as privileged creatures and puts before them all the wonderful gifts He has created; and
- Parousia, the time when God will be all in all: a time marking the fulfillment of God's plan to bring all people, all things, all of creation into the full enjoyment of God in a cosmic communion of love.
Though we can readily see that the world does not embody perfect love, we live in hope as we travel a faithful journey guided by these strong rails of Creation and Parousia.