First Published in ‘The Catholic Voice’, Ireland, August 2016
Divorce Issue Still being used as a Trap
Today, we go back to the book of Genesis, to the beginning. When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus on the question of marriage and divorce, he pointed them back to the beginning. It is interesting to note that this very same question, nowadays framed in the benign, and seemingly caring terms of re-admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, is still being used in an attempt to circumvent God’s original plan for marriage and as a trap to lead the unwary astray.
The beginning of human life on earth, as related in the book of Genesis, tells us how God intended things to be. It tells us what went wrong. It tells us the consequences of that wrongdoing, and it points us to the solution for getting back to how things were in the beginning.
In the Beginning, God existed in a Beautiful Trinity of Love
In earlier articles, we saw that in the beginning there was just God, existing alone in the beautiful mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. We then saw the two accounts of creation in Genesis chapters one and two. Chapter one tells us “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth…” (Gen 1:27-28)
Chapter two gives us another version of the same story “And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself…” God then creates all the animals, the birds, the fish and the other creatures, but none of them satisfy the man’s requirement for a helper.
Nothing is in Sacred Scripture by Accident
It is important when we read sacred scripture to realise that nothing is there by accident. Each of the different accounts of the creation of man serves a specific purpose. In the first account of man’s creation, we are given the primary end of marriage which is children, and their education in the love of God and neighbour. The second account of man’s creation tells us that the man, although he was good, was alone, and that being alone was not good – “it is not good for man to be alone”(Genesis 2:18).
It is not Good for Man to be Alone
It is not good for the man to be alone. He needs a helper. Man is insufficient on his own. He needs a woman. This is partly because of his physical make up. He has sexual characteristics which need the complementarity of female sexuality in order to fulfil their purpose of bringing children into the world. But man and woman cannot be reduced to just their sexual characteristics! We are composite beings of body and soul, created in the image and likeness of God, for the purpose of knowing God, loving God, and serving God. Our sexual characteristics must be placed at the service of God, within marriage, for the purpose God intended, which is children!
God’s plan for marriage did not and cannot change. But with the fall, man is inclined towards evil, his flesh is at war with his spirit, and so he finds it difficult to do God’s will on account of this internal struggle.
Brief Summary of Genesis
Here is a very brief summary of the first three chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve are created. They are naked and unashamed. They have free will. They are tempted by the serpent to disobey God and they do what the serpent suggests, eating of the forbidden fruit. They fall from grace and they now realise that they are naked. They are ashamed and seek to hide their bodies from each other using fig leaves. They also seek to hide themselves from God. God asks them for an account of what has happened. In His mercy towards man God promises the incarnation and he gives a punishment to the man and to the woman which allows them to atone somewhat for their sins.
God then clothes the man and the woman properly, with clothes fashioned from the skin of animals and He puts them out of the garden of Eden. An angel is then set to guard the entrance lest they should try to re-enter.
Genesis – Chapter Four
Then begins chapter four of the book of Genesis.
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’ And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis 4:1-2)
The bible uses the word ‘knew’, from knowledge, to indicate marital intimacy between Adam and Eve. Explicit references are not used in the traditional translations of the bible. But there is a new tendency in some modern translations to use the graphic term for marital intimacy. Again the problem if immodesty in language arises with this modern tendency to expose everything to view. Nothing is veiled, nothing is private, nothing is intimate, nothing is Holy.
Sin is Couching at the Door
Chapter four continues, “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:3-7)
This warning to Cain that “sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” is for all of us. We must build up a resistance to sin otherwise it will master us as we see that it mastered Cain.
The First Murder and Death
“Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:8-12)
Here, death comes to the human race for the very first time. It is not a natural death, but a murder. Adam and Eve’s firstborn son Cain, has murdered their second child Abel. Now the lies of the serpent are in full view, and the hearts of Adam and Eve are filled with a sorrow beyond our comprehension. They are all too aware of their own disobedience and that God warned them that if they ate of the fruit death would enter the world. Now it has come to pass. The blood of one they love cries out to heaven. He was murdered by another whom they loved.
© John Lacken 2016
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Author: John Lacken
Founder: Legio Sanctae Familiae – The Legion of the Holy Family