July-August 2019: Lectio Divina (Genesis 3:1-7) The Fall

Lectio Divina (Genesis 3:1-7) The Fall

Lectio: What the Word says in itself
This passage from the very first pages of the Bible takes us back to the origins of the human race. We can too easily dismiss these early chapters of Genesis as children’s stories; yet the Church encourages us instead to welcome God’s revelation that shares with us perennial truths about the human condition.

The serpent – the devil or Satan (Rev 20:2, cf. Job 1-2) – asks the woman: ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ This, the first question in the Bible, cleverly turns around God’s command, to suggest the opposite of what God actually said. The woman affirms God’s admonition, but the serpent opposes: ‘No! You will not die!’ Thus, desire for ‘forbidden fruit’ is awakened in the woman, who takes it and gives some to her husband. The text states that he was with her, yet he was strangely absent from the conversation; could he have done more to protect her from the snake’s insinuations? Their eyes were indeed opened, they realised they were naked: knowledge of good and evil resulted, while God wanted them only to know the good.

Meditatio: What the Word says to me/us
We see the power of words influencing actions, how the Tempter twists God’s command, to lead us into error, with catastrophic consequences. God’s commands are always life-giving; if we listen to the serpent, we lose sight of how God wants our happiness, seeking a false freedom that can never bring us true fulfilment. The Word challenges us to avoid two extremes in our attitude to evil: we can dismiss talk of the devil as fairy tales, yet as Pope Francis often reminds us, belief in the devil’s existence is an integral part of the Gospel. On the other hand, we can blame Satan for our wrong choices (‘the devil made me do it’), instead of accepting the consequences of our actions. God has gifted us with free will, this is our dignity as his beloved children. Whenever we pray with Jesus, ‘Thy will be done’ (Matthew 6:10), we let his light shine a little more in our world of darkness.

If I believe God wants my happiness and peace, then I can trust that he knows what is best for me, and I will be less influenced by words that diminish his fatherly providence, revealed through his Word which is ‘a light for my path (Ps 118:105).

Oratio: What the Word leads me/us to say
Lord, help me to listen to your Word before all other words. Enable me to see your commandments as a path to life, rather than a mere set of prohibitions which curtail my freedom. Enlighten me to identify the voices that do not come from you, enticing me to seek transitory pleasures rather than finding authentic freedom in obedience to your will. Thank you, Lord, for your patience with my mistakes. Help me to find real nourishment in your Word, the teaching of the Church, and the various ways you strive to speak to me in my daily life.

Contemplatio: Being transformed by the Word
Reflect on the power that words have, for good or evil. Think about how Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin (Heb 4:15): Jesus encountered the devil in the desert, and triumphed over his suggestions with the power of God’s word and his obedience to the Father. Rest in the protection of the One who will not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength (1 Cor 10:13). Read Psalm 90 as one who ‘dwells in the shelter of the Most High.’ Sing Henry Lyte’s hymn, Abide With Me: ‘What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?’

Actio: Putting the Word into practice
Strive to ‘speak in words which seem to come from God (1 Pt 4:10), thereby spreading goodness, truth and beauty to others. Shun gossip, negativity and criticism, bearing in mind the ‘triple filter test’ of Socrates before speaking: is what I have to say true, good and useful?

Let’s remind ourselves that God’s love is always more powerful than evil; the Cross of Jesus has won the victory over Satan and his kingdom. We renew our commitment to reflect God’s love to others, seeking to build up instead of knocking down. We seek to discern words and attitudes in social media, in the light of the Gospel. We hear Jesus tell us (Jn 16:33): ‘Be brave: I have conquered the world!’

Fr Nigel Woolen
is based in London.
He recently published
Learning to Love:
Journeys Through Life
with the Rosary
(Veritas, 2018)