Genesis 2:5-9, 15-17
Psalm 104:1-2, 27-28, 29-30
Sometimes I wish my diet were 90% chocolate. Sometimes my wife says my diet IS 90% chocolate. That's not true, I respond. I also ingest donuts. And lemon meringue pie, and pineapple upside-down cake, and cream puffs, and in an altogether different category, steak au poivre and escargots bourguignon.
Our readings for today have to do with the food God in His goodness has provided for the living beings of His creation. Genesis tells us that the Garden of Eden offered Adam a wonderful variety of trees delightful to look at and good for eating. Today's psalm praises God as our provider, and in the Gospel Jesus speaks of our freedom to eat from God's bounty without fear of defilement.
Of course the Scriptures came to humanity without the kinds of nutritional advice our scientists give us in our time. Medical laboratories and test kitchens provide the factual basis for the endless magazine articles and diet books and television programs that warn us against fats, sugar and carbohydrates, against whatever may clog our arteries or cause us to put on unsightly and heart-stressing pounds. Athletes might benefit from protein supplements, but they should avoid steroids, whose effects may involve not only the body but also the personality. A professor of Natural Law at Notre Dame has written, "You can't swallow a barbed-wire sandwich."
But Jesus in today's Gospel is not speaking about the physical body or the physical heart as subject to defilement. Created things are good, and we're not wrong to enjoy them, whether they're desserts or green vegetables or a fine wine or an expensive scotch whiskey or even the quiche that real men aren't supposed to like. Nor need we be ashamed of loving the body of another, or appreciating the other things outside of ourselves that tempt us with the promise of pleasure or security.
It's when these outside things are abused, when our own desires for them get out of control, that we place our moral lives in danger. When we want that drink of scotch too often or in too great volume; when we drive recklessly or collect cars just to win the envy of others; when we use the drug not for health but "for kicks"; when we nourish the seeds within us of unchastity, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and greed -- then good things God created are corrupted by our inordinate behavior.
The gloomy sky and swirling snowflakes I see outside my window right now remind me that this late winter signals the approach of Lent. The Lenten season has traditionally been a time of giving up certain foods that give us pleasure. Nowadays we also honor the season with acts of charity, of service and almsgiving. I think that today's readings help to prepare us for Lent by telling us that we should use the good things of creation, but use them rightly. The fruits of the Garden of Eden were for all humanity, not just Adam and Eve. You and I, therefore, as Jesus suggests, are right to share the products of the earth, of the trees, the fields, the streams. We must see that to every human being there is available a just share, and that we do what we can to avoid the sins Jesus names in the Gospel, sins committed when we allow our own appetites to grow out of control. Our greatest temptations come not from God's creations, but from ourselves.
That pan of fudge looks good; perhaps I'll do better to give just
the right amount to someone else!
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