Third Sunday after Pentecost

God longs for deeper connection and holy conversation

Snake in dimly lit foliage
Photo by David Jdt on Unsplash; licensed under CC0.

June 9, 2024

First Reading
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Commentary on Genesis 3:8-15

The relationship between God and the primeval couple undergoes a seismic change after they eat the forbidden fruit. It is a new stage with new theological insights as we follow the drama of God visiting them. 

As the story unfolds, we read about God arriving at the end of the day. The difference with this visit is that they hide from God. The idyllic harmony of love and community in Genesis 2 has been lost, and their consciousness has shifted. The act of hiding symbolizes new emotions and spiritual change. They know and feel shame because they see themselves naked. Such a transformation in their understanding alters the perception of their place in the world. This is the mythical beginning of human existence. Genesis 3 describes nakedness and its implications for their relationship with God, their thoughts, desires, and limitations. 

As a myth of creation, in this case of humanity’s origins, this narrative is a poignant description of our journey from birth to death. This journey is marked by self-discovery and moral discernment as indicators of our emotional and moral growth. 

Two questions in the narrative reveal the change in Adam and Eve’s understanding. God’s first question captures an essential element of their journey. “Where are you?” is more than God’s inquiry about their whereabouts. The question is an invitation to an inward journey. God is seeking more than coordinates. “Where are you?” is a request toward introspection and communion with the Divine. 

A personal God seeks dialogue beyond verbal interaction. God longs for deeper connection and holy conversation even if God knows their new emotional and spiritual condition. God’s invitation to communion and fellowship contrasts with Adam’s actions once he hears that God is in the garden. He is afraid and hides himself, activities that reflect his journey of self-discovery. 

“Who told you that you were naked?” is God’s second question. After Adam explains to God why he decided to hide, this question goes deeper into Adam’s understanding of his new self. It seeks to confront Adam’s unique sense of vulnerability and awareness of guilt and shame, exposing the consequences of their disobedience. God invites Adam to consider the source of his new knowledge and to assess its validity and implications for life in the garden. The question also suggests God’s commitment to dialogue because it helps Adam grapple with the nature of human understanding. It is a question about morality and the complex theological task of discerning right from wrong, an ongoing process in human existence.

In the aftermath of their disobedience, Adam’s and Eve’s responses to God’s question show an interplay of accountability and evasion. Adam blames God for his actions; paraphrasing Adam’s retort, the woman God placed in the garden gave Adam the fruit. Adam knows the power of blaming others instead of accepting responsibility. Indirectly, God is responsible because God provided the woman in the first place. His words suggest avoidance of guilt. He insinuates that God’s gift of a companion is the source of his downfall. 

Blame passes on from one to another, as the woman does not accept responsibility and blames the serpent who tricked her, deflecting personal accountability for her eating and partaking of the fruit. She shifts the burden, attributing her disobedience to a persuasive animal. Both responses reflect the human inclination to evade accountability by pointing to other factors: God’s provision, or external influences. 

Something has drastically changed in the divine-human relationship. Adam and Eve realize they are naked, they feel shame about their bodies, and they sense vulnerability as God approaches them to have a conversation. Finally, they blame others for their actions. Human relationships include a continuous struggle with the newly discovered forces and possibilities. 

After speaking to Adam and Eve, God also addresses the serpent. God’s words carry both judgment and promise. They are a prophecy of conflict in the human condition between the seed of the woman and of the serpent, echoing christological considerations. Just as Adam and Eve struggle with their evolving awareness of life in the garden, God’s words to the serpent signify more than a cosmic battle. This declaration holds a profound theological significance, foreshadowing the arrival of a Redeemer, the promise of a future figure who will conquer the power of evil symbolized by the cunning serpent. 

New forces in the emotional and spiritual realm are at play as the humans discern between good and evil. However, in the Christian story, this struggle culminates in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It’s an insight into the divine plan of salvation, portraying Christ’s victory over evil as fulfilling this ancient prophecy. Just as Adam and Eve faced consequences for their disobedience, this prophecy introduces the promise of Christ’s redemptive act, emphasizing his pivotal role in restoring humanity’s broken relationship with God.

A nuanced understanding of God’s response lies within the judgment of the serpent and the primeval couple. God’s justice is not merely punitive but aims to guide and shape the ongoing creation process toward greater harmony and fulfillment. The promise of a Redeemer reflects God’s relentless pursuit of transformation and restoration—a continuous urging toward beauty, goodness, and wholeness within the evolving moments of existence.

Therefore, Genesis 3:8–15, viewed through human self-awareness and God’s desire for communion, embodies a narrative of disobedience and redemption and reveals the dynamic, evolving relationship between humanity and God. It portrays a relationship characterized by growth, relational depth, and the continuous emergence of new possibilities within the ongoing journey of becoming, finding its fulfillment in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.