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Free to eat

by davesandel on February 10th, 2021

Wednesday, February 10, 2021          (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin

Free to eat

You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.

Oh, Lord, we have changed your rule and made it ours, and we have turned it on its head, but never do we hesitate before the forbidden tree. We are victims, then, of our own judgments, choosing paths that deliver us but condemn others, thinking we see good in ourselves but evil in them. All too soon we lose the way of love.

Jesus summoned the crowd and said, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person, but the things that come out of you from within are what defile.”

And not just the Pharisees, but also me. I forget where I came from.

God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. Then God planted a garden in Eden and settled the man there surrounded by delightful trees to cultivate and to eat.

Except the one. Do not seek the knowledge of good and evil. You’re not ready for that yet. Wait for it, Adam, wait for it. You give us life and a place to thrive, which we too quickly take for granted.

O Lord my God, all creatures look to you to give them food in due time. When you open your hands they are filled with good things to eat. O Lord, you renew the face of the earth. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Isn’t fruit from the other trees enough? When you tell me not to touch the one, that one becomes the only one that matters. Why can’t I touch it? Is it better than the others? What will happen if I touch it? You just created me, would you so quickly doom me to die?

Jesus drove his point home with his disciples. “Do you not realize that from within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from within. And they are what defiles you.”

Obedience has always been hard for me, because I want what I cannot have, just to see what happens next. I minimize what I know about the consequences. When I watch Miles struggle with obedience, I see myself. When he ignores a direct instruction and pretends he doesn’t hear, I see myself. He is learning, but often ignores what he knows, about the consequences. He will decide what to do and say, rather than listening to us. Just as I will decide what to do and say, rather than obeying the simple rules set out by those around me, by civil authorities, and by God.

But when I set up my own rules, I get in trouble quickly. Even when the rules are right for me, they might not be right for someone else. Just look at St. Benedict, whose Rule governed thousands of monasteries for hundreds of years. Even he, in his own scrupulosity, turned his Rule on its head, refusing his sister a life-giving request, and you turned it back around with a simple thunderstorm. Since our failure in Eden, this has been your way with us, giving us chance after chance to see ourselves and all the world the way you see us, the way you see the world. We are your children, and though if we never grow up you will be disappointed, still, you will never leave us. You do not abandon your children, Lord.

(Genesis 2, Psalm 104, John 17, Mark 7)

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