February 12, 2019
Fifth Tuesday of Ordinary Time
Genesis 1:20-2:4; Psalm 8; Mark 7:1-13
Early in the mornings when it’s still dark I’ve been sitting by the window looking at the stars. They seem to hang in the branches of our maple tree, and seeing them I sometimes have this sense of how vast and beautiful creation is, and how petty my little problems are. How I keep worrying about kettles and jugs. How I keep mistaking human traditions for God’s commandment.
“When I behold your heavens,” O Lord, “the moon and the stars which you set in place,” I feel so small. So insignificant.
But if I sit by the window long enough, if I can start to settle down, if I can hear myself think, I also have this sense now and then that there’s something vast and beautiful inside of me, too, and inside of all us. We are made in the image and likeness of God, Genesis tells us. The Imago Dei. We are infinitely small and yet infinitely precious in the eyes of God, because deep inside, underneath the pettiness and the distractions, we are made by Him.
The phrase “original sin” isn’t in the Genesis story or anywhere else in the Bible, and it doesn’t mean what we think it means anyway, that human beings are somehow originally or fundamentally sinful. We’re not. We’re originally blessed, we’re originally holy. “Original sin” describes this mysterious way we have of messing that up, this mysterious way we all have of ruining our Edens and walking away, out of orneriness or selfishness or pride.
This is why we have to commit ourselves to the dignity of all life, from the baby to the bumblebee, from the poor and the vulnerable to all the little live things of the earth and all the systems and ecologies that preserve and maintain them, because this is the world as God intended it, this is Eden, not wrecked by our greed and rapaciousness, not made ugly and desolate.
And this is why we have to keep careful track in those quiet moments of prayer to the other voice that lurks inside of us and that is always trying to tempt us away, that voice that says we’re not good enough, that voice that’s always whispering that we need to have this or do that or no one will love us. That’s never the voice of God. Never. That’s the voice that’s calling us away from the Divine Image we all carry within, or trying to, and it’s blasphemous. It’s wrong.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against this voice, this wickedness, this snare.
Or in the words of this prayer from Pope Francis—a good prayer to bring to confession, a good prayer to pray every day:
Lord, I have let myself be deceived.
In a thousand ways I have shunned your love.
Yet here I am once more,
to renew my covenant with you.
I need you–save me once again, Lord.
Take me once more
into your redeeming embrace.