Daily Prayers

Prayer is Love, I want to Love

Creation And Sin; Guidance And Mercy

The Book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Chapter one is a poem in which the author imagines God as a working man, working for six days and then taking a day of rest. God’s final act on the evening of the sixth day is to create human beings in “our own image and likeness.” God created them male and female. God is talking to Sophia, we discover, whose name means “Wisdom”, and in the Book of Wisdom she speaks of her delight at being with God in the Creation and then being with the human race for all ages.

The first three chapters are about man and woman. Eve appears only at the end of chapter three and Adam not until the end of chapter four. Adam and Eve’s family story (Cain, Abel, Seth, etc.) is grafted on to the opening three chapters. What we call ‘original sin’ is not of Adam and Eve – it is the sin of man and woman, a universal story of every age.

A baby is conceived innocent, born innocent, but into a world scarred by its history of wrong-doing, hatred, wars, slavery and even genocide – as our world is today. God saw all that was made as good but human history has brought evil in every age to spoil that goodness. Human beings can be so evil that they justify killing and even genocide as honouring God. All religions have lived that blasphemous belief, including Jews in the Book of Joshua, Muslims in their ‘holy wars’, the Catholic Church in its lie of the ‘Donation of Constantine’ and defending its history of persecution, inquisition, torture and execution.

Each of us shares in the sin of the world because we inherit the guilt of the first sin or because by our own first (original) sin we link ourselves to sin going back to the beginning. Are we born with original sin (guilty) or in original sin, sharing the effects of sin? The translation of St Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans (5:12) is the crux. The old translation was interpreted to mean we are guilty because of the first sin, but a new understanding was suggested in the 1960’s in Rome that our guilt begins only with our own first sin.

The protagonists were Prof. Spadafora at the Lateran University and Prof. Lyonnet at the Biblicum. The comment in the Jerusalem Bible simply says “Meaning disputed.” I was taught the old understanding when young but I believe the new understanding from my studies: each of us is good as created by God but in our own first (original) sin we add our guilt to all previous guilt.

We can thus speak of two original sins in our lives: our own and the sin that belongs to human history going back to the beginning. I don’t remember my first sin and I wasn’t there for the first sin of the human race, but I know they both happened. We all know wrong-doing.

Baptism is a cleansing from sin (“I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins”) but much more it is the water of new life, as at the baptism of Jesus “beloved son, listen to him.” Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide his followers to new understanding: this is the Church’s development of doctrine. Some of today’s challenges for guidance include same-sex relationships, divorce from unbearable marriage with freedom to marry again, the exclusion of abusers of children and women from any part in the mission of the Church except by quiet lives of repentance and prayer.

We need and pray to be open always to understanding God’s loving mercy. Truth does not change but understanding of truth does. We all experience new understanding in various areas of life. To give Yesterday’s answers to Today’s questions suggest we don’t want Tomorrow but prefer looking back to Yesterday. No children are going to be born Yesterday. They have Today’s questions that require fresh answers. The biggest is still whether we kill our enemies or offer friendship. Religions are the frightening monsters of world history, justifying their horror by claiming they are doing God’s will. No child will accept that unless persuaded (indoctrinated) by evil people – to hate rather than befriend.

God bless us to love one another,

Rev Fr John

(25th June 2023)

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