Painting: Adam and Eve, Charles-Joseph Natoire (1740)
By Msgr. Charles Pope • June 9, 2018
In the first reading for Sunday (from Genesis) the Lord asks three important questions and sets into motion a “crucial” plan for our salvation. The word “crucial” is rooted in the Latin word for cross (crux or crucis). As such, it indicates something that is central by a coming together of the horizontal and vertical. It also points to a suffering that needs healing. Let’s look at each question in turn and then observe God’s saving plan.
I. “Adam, where are you?” – God’s first question has almost the quality of a plaintive cry. Because Adam is the head of his household, when God calls Adam He is also seeking Eve.
Of course, God knows where Adam and Eve are. He is really saying, “Adam, Eve: your heart has been hidden from me. What has happened? Where are you going with your life?” This is a crucial question for all of us who are so easily wayward and dull of heart: Where are you?
It is almost as if Adam and Eve had a place in God’s heart and suddenly are absent from that place. Noticing it at once, God seeks them as a shepherd looks for lost sheep.
It is interesting that He is seeking them, not pursuing them. There is nothing here to imply an angry Father, bent on punishment and venting His anger, pursuing those who have done wrong. No, this is a soulful cry.
God is not unaware of what has happened or where they are. The question is deeper: Where is your heart?
We are asked this same question: Where is our heart? On what are our desires focused? Where are we and where are we going? It is much like what Jesus asked Peter: “Do you love me?” How will we answer?
II. “Who told you that you were naked?” – We do well to understand that the nakedness here is about more than a lack of clothes (which they didn’t even need moments ago). It more fully refers to the experience of feeling exposed, vulnerable, inadequate, and unduly humiliated before God and others.
Proper sorrow for sin is a good thing, but if it descends to deep degradation and feelings of worthlessness, we are robbed of our dignity and capacity to withstand sin in the future. St. Paul says,
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Cor. 7:10).
Proper sorrow bids us to seek God for healing. Note that Adam is hiding from God. He has a servile fear of punishment. Instead of running to God, Adam hides; he is fearful and resentful. How quickly he blames his wife for the whole thing: “It was that woman you put here with me!”
God asks us this question, too: “Who told you that you were naked?” In other words, who told you that were wretched and inadequate such that you need to hide from me? I never told you that. Clearly, Satan has bedeviled you and lied to you.
Here are some further things for many of us: “Who told you that you are ugly, that others are better than you, that you do not measure up, that others are laughing at you, that your inadequacies are all that others see? I did not tell you this. They are not the source of your dignity, I am.”
It is a terrible thing to sin, but it is even worse to then lose all hope, to despair, and to feel incapable of emerging from the nakedness of humiliation. Judas despaired of his sin in this way and refused to live with his nakedness and exposure to humiliation. In contrast, Peter waited for the Lord, lived with his sorrow, and then experienced His forgiveness at the lakeside (Jn 21:15ff).
Let the Lord ask you: “Who told you that you were naked?” What does nakedness mean in your life?
Remember, the Lord did not forsake Adam and Eve. He prepares their salvation (as we shall see) and meanwhile He clothed them: The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Gen 3:21). Later, Jesus clothed us in righteousness (Rev 19:8).
III. “Why did you do such a thing?” – The tone here could be rhetorical, as if to say, “How could you have done such a thing?” For our purpose, though, it is better to understand the question as an invitation to look into our heart and ponder our motivations.
The Catechism speaks to Adam and Eve’s motivations in the following way:
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness (CCC # 397).
So, at the heart of Adam and Eve’s fall was a lack of trust in God’s goodness and truthfulness. They accepted Satan’s lie that God was not really good and that He was holding the best things back from them, that He was preventing them from being gods. This also aroused their pride and made them ungrateful for what they had. These are the deeper drives behind their external act.
In asking this question, God invites Adam and Eve to ponder the motivations of their hearts and come to greater self-knowledge.
This same question must be asked of us when we sin: Why did you do such a thing? It is good to confess our sinful behavior, but it is more healing to ponder the deep drives of sin and seek the Lord’s healing. There are many deep drives of sin: pride, greed, lust, anger, envy, gluttony, sloth, ingratitude, fear, worldliness, stubbornness, and so forth. We do well to study our hearts and learn to name the vices and virtues we discover there. Through self-knowledge and grace, we can take greater authority over our lives.
The Crucial Plan: The text from Genesis 3 also announces the “protoevangelium” (the first Gospel) after Original Sin. The Lord does not forsake Adam, Eve, or us. He sets forth a crucial plan wherein one of Eve’s own progeny will rise to conquer Satan’s pride by His humble acceptance of the Cross:
Then the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”
In effect, God says that this attack on His people will not stand. He will set this right. In setting it right He will include His people in the very solution. The man, woman, and tree involved in this fall will also be its undoing. There will be a new Adam (Christ), a new Eve (Mary), and the tree of the Cross. In the very act of striking at Christ’s heel, the serpent’s head will be crushed. Your power will be crushed, Satan.
So indeed, it happened. God had a “crucial” plan: the plan of the Cross. Pride would defeat humility as light casts out darkness and love drives out hatred.
Whatever your sins, never forget that God has a plan to save you. Let God find you as He calls “Where are you?” Let Him clothe your nakedness and help you to understand your heart. Finally, let Him apply the crucial remedy, the cross. All He needs is your ongoing yes!