Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
When we hear the conversation between Eve and the serpent, we should recall that Jesus calls the devil a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). Nonetheless, often we listen to this conversation as if the devil has some precious truth, or, at the very least, some interesting tidbit that we would do well to know and learn from. And yet, Pope Francis insists repeatedly that we never do well to listen to the devil. With Benedict XVI, we can reflect, instead, on the fact that Jesus is the LOGOS, and thus stands at the origin of all genuine logic and rationality. The devil rejects this LOGOS, and so the devil’s every reasoning will be perverse. Ignatius observes that we cannot find the way to a right decision by following the counsels of the evil one (SpEx 318).
In spite of all this, it can seem to many people that the serpent told the truth when it insists to Eve (against God), “you certainly will not die.” Does it not seem that, even after having consumed the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve remain in life? The fact that we think in this way shows just how profoundly our reasoning has been affected by that of the serpent. Saint Paul points out that it was the disobedience of this couple that brought death into the world. Before this, Adam and Eve knew only life. But what was the life that they knew? It was a simple, luminous communion with each other and all of creation in God’s love. If we realize that this love is life, we see how it was lost when Adam and Eve reject the life that God offers them in order to grasp after another “life” apart from God. But, in truth, there is no life apart from God. Adam and Eve have rejected the very ground of their existence; it would make metaphysical sense for the earth to swallow them up at this moment (Cf. SpEx 60). And yet, though in a very real sense we can say that Adam and Eve have experienced a spiritual death—for they have lost the simplicity and transparency in which they once stood before God, one another, and creation—God desires to bring them back to the fullness of life, and so continues to sustain them in his love so that they may return, with his help, to the life they once knew.
In his death on the cross, Christ—who is life—reveals to us that the fullness of the life that God desires for us cannot simply be identified with physical life. Indeed, Christ never surrenders the true life found in love alone, and the terrible death that he dies cannot destroy the true life that he reveals and offers to us once again.