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Along the Way
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Feasting on Poison Fruit

Back when the world and everything in it had just been created, God took Adam and Eve on a tour of the Garden of Eden. He told them everything they needed to know about living in the Garden. One of the last things he did was point out a large and beautiful tree to them. God warned them that even though the tree was just as beautiful as the other trees in the Garden the fruit was poisonous to humans. Being so young, Adam and Eve werent sure what God meant by "poisonous", so they asked God to explain.

"If you eat that fruit it ruins your vision. You cant really see other very well after you eat it. You cant see me very well either. It becomes hard for you to tell the difference between good and bad, what has value and what doesnt. It warps your thinking also, It makes you think that you are alone, so you forget about other and think only of yourself. You look for happiness where you can only be hurt and you run from that which brings real joy and peace. There is also a toxin in the fruit that will eventually kill you. So, dont eat that fruit. It will destroy you."

They did really well for a while and avoided the tree with the poisonous fruit.

Then one day a talking snake showed up in the Garden. "Hey, you guys" he said. "Are you bored with life in this Garden? Wouldnt you like to look better, be smarter, feel great and be more attractive to your mate?"

Eve answered, "No, I feel good, am smart enough to figure out what I need to know and Adams hasnt voiced any complaints yet."

The snake came right back at her. "But are you happy with yourself? Just imagine how much better you would look with designer gowns and the best jewelry. Wouldnt you like to give Adam something to show how much you love him, maybe a rolex watch or a laptop computer?"

"What are you talking about?" Eve asked

"Then theres power," responded the snake. Nothing gives as much pleasure as being able to control other people. You deserve such power. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have what you want."

"So, how do I get all these possessions you speak of, how to I get everything that I want?" Asked eve.

The snake said, "Simple, just follow me." She followed him through the Garden and they came to the tree with the poison fruit. "Eat that fruit and you will have all of the possessions and the power you want. Said the snake.

"But, God told us not to eat that fruit." Said Eve.

"See", said the snake, "God is keeping you from what you want. Anyway, one little bite cant hurt." Eve saw a certain logic in what the snake said, so she pulled one of the fruit from the tree and began to eat. It tasted very bitter.

  • We live in a society today that views abortion as a legal right,
  • where marital intimacy is expected on the first date,
  • where couples live together outside of marriage with little thought,
  • Where fidelity or permanence in marriage are conditioned on my happiness and desires,
  • where profit for the sake of profit seems to be the first law of economics and the impact on others is irrelevant,
  • where our enemies are leveled to the ground and body counts seem to be no more meaningful than scores in a video game.
  • Where the gap between the wealthy and the poor in the world grows wider every day
  • Where the richest nation in the world gives the smallest portion of its income compared to other wealthy nations to aid the poor and developing nations of the world
  • Where some view murder and destruction as a religious virtue,
  • Where children are neglected and abused,
  • Where food rots in silos while millions die of hunger,
  • Where we view our brothers and sisters with suspicion if their complexion is a different shade from ours, if their grandparents came from a different country than our grandparents, if they speak a different language from ours or worship God differently than we do.
  • Where authority and trust are betrayed,
  • Where addiction to alcohol and drugs destroys millions of marriages and lives.
  • Where 74% of school children admit to cheating on exams

We go along thinking that our little compromises with evil are no big deal. "Sure," we say, "its wrong to download music files but everyone does it and the music companies overcharge for CDs anyway!" Yet, each compromise is a bite from the poisonous fruit that brought death and destruction to our First Parents. Each compromise with evil turns us further and further away from God.

St. James makes this quite clear in the second reading, he speaks to wealthy Christians and warns them of the misery and destruction they are seeking after. Their wealth and fine possessions will rot away. The treasures that they have built up will be testimony against them when they stand before the Lord. What are these people doing that is so evil? They werent paying a just wage to their employees and were ignoring the needs of the poor in their community. It doesnt seem that bad, They were just being just like everyone else in the community. The problem is that Christians are not supposed to be like everyone else in the community. Their faith is supposed to transform them into other Christs. The life of each Christian, you and I, is the witness of the truth of the Gospel to the rest of the world.

In todays Gospel reading when we hear the compassionate and loving Jesus telling us cut off our hand or foot if they cause us to sin or to pluck out our eye if it causes us to sin, the words are jarring. It is as if someone ran their fingernails along a blackboard and set our teeth on edge. Jesus is trying to get our attention. He is trying to jolt us back to reality. Sin is turning away from God. It is poison. It is destructive. Even a little bit of it will harm us!

Now the Church has never understood this passage to mean that we must run out and have parts of our body amputated. It has always been seen as a way to get our attention and to get us to take sin seriously. God takes sin seriously. Otherwise, Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, would not have been nailed to the cross for our sins. Christ brings forgiveness of sin and redemption. The Holy Spirit gives us the grace and strength to overcome sin. But this grace is not cheap, the price is that we turn toward Christ and away from sin. In todays Gospel Jesus warns us to take sin seriously. It is poison and you dont compromise with poison.

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

(c) 1997-2008. Richard Shewman. All stories, articles, reflections and other written material contained in this website are the creative fruit and property of Richard Shewman. All rights are reserved. The written material contained in this website may not be reproduced or published in any form, except for the individual and personal use of the reader, without the express consent of the author.