Scripture Reflections – Sunday, October 7th

Gn2:18-24; Hb 2:9-11; Mk 10: 2-6
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I really wish the first reading this week had been extended one more verse. Being a father of two teen-agers and a teacher of about 200,however, I think I understand why they left it out: “And the two of them were naked and felt no shame.” Whoa. We don’t want our young people thinking too much about THAT!

Still….there is so much insight into what it means to be human in that one little verse. Nakedness as a symbol in the Biblical world had nothing to do with sex. It was a symbol of shame with very long roots. If you look at some of the surviving artwork on the palaces of the Assyrian kings from the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.E. you’ll see the corpses of their enemies stripped naked. In Jesus’ time, Crucifixion was done after the victim had been stripped naked so that shame was as much a part of the suffering as the physical pain. (All of the towels wrapped around Jesus’ mid-section on all the crosses you’ve ever seen were added as a nod to Christian modesty and not historical accuracy.)

Yet the first Creation story proclaims that there was a time before Shame. A time when human beings did not wonder about their self-worth or feel alienated and alone. A time when human beings experienced a fundamental sense of connection with one another, with nature, and with God. A time when Death was not invited to the party.

And then comes Genesis 3 – the Fall of human beings – and the ultimate buzzkill of the entire Bible.

The gloriously good news of the Christian Faith is that this experience of original blessing is not a dream or a fairy tale or a sad recounting of what might have been but our birthright as children of God. It is the joyful experience of all who are led by the Spirit into the bosom of the risen Christ (whether they know it or not!). As the writer of Hebrews proclaims: “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.” Those who were created by the loving hand of Holiness retain that spark of holiness throughout the journey of life. And, on that day, when everything old is new again, they will stand there in the kingdom of God, their holiness beaming, naked and without shame.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgirm)

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