Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The conditions of life in the garden

by: Reynard O. Tubid

In order to complete the creation of God, He puts the first human being in the garden to work and to guard it. Along with the existence of man in the garden, God has given him the prohibition as a part of his task. God said; you can eat any of the trees in the garden but not of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2: 16-17). According to Jean Louis Ska and with that of the exegetes, the tree which was mentioned by God to the first human being is associated with the meaning of the prohibition itself and the knowledge of good and evil. With all the trees in the garden, there are two special trees that must be taken seriously; the tree of life which is the wisdom motif and the second tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There are several propositions based on Jean’s explanation regarding the tree of knowledge of good and evil. First, it has an existential implication. Both evil and good do have useful and harmful meaning. They have the capacity of discerning for what is harmful. Second, the ethical meaning, it is related on the question of what is morally good and what is morally evil. They are both equal in moral senses. Thus, the knowledge of good and evil would be the capacity of discerning what is useful and what is harmful, in order to choose the good and avoid the evil. Third, it has a sexual meaning. The snake has a common fertility symbol. It represents nakedness that is related to sexuality and hassled into the discovery of sexual maturity. The first couple is aware of their nakedness, their shameful dishonor in rebelling against God, their helplessness before the just God. These creatures trying to be like the creator on their own terms and finally realizes their shameful act and felt their naked human nature. The man has now become like one of us making himself judge of good and evil (Gen. 3:22). Finally, it exemplifies the sense of totality. Good and evil are understood to be a merism; the knowledge of everything. The merism is divided into four important points. First, only God knows what is good and evil. Second, the discernment of what is good and evil is indispensable. Deuteronomy 30:15-20 is very clear in this respect since it says that Israel must choose good and not evil. This would be impossible if Israel could not know what is good and evil. Third, discernment is the characteristic of adulthood. Lastly, it is dangerous and harmful to confuse good and evil (Is. 5, 20). God forbids man to eat the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It means that the first human cannot treat this tree like all other tress around the garden, because the fruit is not just a simple fruit that can be consumed like all other fruits in the garden. It should not be an object of human desire and appetite. Adam’s sin is one of rebellion against God; Adam eats despite God’s telling him: you shall not eat. Adam’s sin consists in wanting to have wisdom which does not come from God. Adam’s sin is the effect of his disobedience and expulsion to the will of God. Man lacks the freedom of responsibility to respond to the prohibition of God, in contrary he does the other way around in order to acquire what God has. According to Jean Louis Ska, in human life, it is possible to act without the knowledge of good and evil, which is more than simple moral discernment. Many texts confirm that this knowledge includes not only the intellectual faculty of distinguishing in an abstract way what is morally good from what is morally evil, but also the ability of finding means to accomplish what is good and avoid what is evil.
In trying to relate the important events from the passage found in the book of genesis, especially focusing on the prohibition of God as the condition of life in the Garden with my experiences, I come to know the difference of good and evil. It helps me to compare possibilities of looking things in the realm of good and its benefits and from the side of the evil which results into deception and chaos. These two qualities of life are my preferences to do the right thing and to distinguish the uniqueness of the two. The more I perform good things the freer I become; there is no absolute freedom except in the service of what is good and evil. In my life as a seminarian, I always look at freedom as to do what I desire. My desire brings me to satisfaction and fulfillment of my pleasures and wants. But as I deepen myself as to what freedom really means, I arrive in the realization that it is not the right to say and do anything. An absolute freedom means to do good and to avoid evil doings. In the formation there are things that I want to do outside the schedule but instead of doing it I prefer to be in the community rather than fulfilling my selfish desires. This decision of mine measures my self-control. It enables me to set my priorities accordingly without compromising any schedule especially when it involves community activity. Freedom is not a private possession but a share freedom with others in the community. In my part, as I decide I do not make it a habit of making decisions for the sake of decision making. But I equate my idea of decision making to something that requires resound judgment. I called it discernment. It is the discovering of the will of God for me. It is an effort to decide what is the most noble and responsible thing to do. In doing this I make it sure that the grace of God and the value it contained are both present within in me and it is working accordingly. This is needed in order to choose the right action that is the way the Spirit is leading me. This is also another way of recognizing of what God is asking of me and how I respond freely to the situations. It is rooted in human awareness and made in a morally good decision. In order to achieve a correct decision, I must examine the feelings and the judgment I make. I have to become more aware of what’s going on inside me. By knowing this, I could reflect on my inner disposition motivating me to judge acceptably and make moral choices pleasing to the thing I ought to do. The fall of our first parents into sin is the concrete illustration of owning what belongs to God. The first man and his wife were tempted by the serpent and had fall right away because they wanted to be independent from the will of God. They do not listen to God, for they want also to acquire the all- knowing nature of God. God has given them freedom but they do not use it in the right way. They are not contented with this level, they prefer to be equal or even more in the level of God. When I am morally equipped with my decisions, I know how to obey. Obedience is my freedom to follow what has been commanded to me. Nevertheless, it must be clear to me that I am doing the work not for my own will alone but there must be a guidance of the divine in order not to fall into self gratification. Obedience is done while the person remains in the grace of God. Indi lang ko dapat magpati sa kon ano ang hambalon sang iban. Bisan sin-o pa siya kung ang iya thoughts wala naangot gihapon sa kamatuoran kag sa ikaayo sang kadam-an indi man ko magpati sa iya gihapon. I’d rather die defending my side for the truth and clarity than to experience death without even knowing the simple things I’ve done because I have just obeyed the person in authority. Obedience is to die for oneself, dying in the will of God.
The present situation of the world joins in this particular fall of man and the improper use of freedom. I know as human beings in this world, we have our own freedom. It depends upon us how to value and to use it. But the world today, do not consider these things. Instead of using the freedom to fulfill what God wants them to do; they give more attention to their earthly desires and pleasures. There are circumstances wherein they’ve neglected the presence and guidance of God in doing their respective tasks and obligations. As long as it sustains them in doing their tasks and it is pleasurable, for them that’s the ultimate good. The world and the people around them failed to pattern their decisions in accordance to the will of God. They become like God also in their own way trying to divert the real essence of the world. There is a great and alarming transition in the process of their decision making. The world today considered good as something that is egocentric. The center of everything is the self alone and not the community. Evil becomes the counterpart of the good. When they find pleasure in evil and it satisfies them, they considered it as the ultimate good. They are pleasure oriented persons attached in the allurements of the world. The coal fired power plant is the concrete example of a self-centered project. The proponents of this project secured their future by obtaining a big amount of money as compensation to their support without looking on the welfare of those who will be affected and the destruction of the beauty of the creation of God. The coal fired power plant will ruin not only the life of the people but the creation of God as a whole. The world is starting to move away from God. Their rebellious acts of doing things improperly are not the ways of God but their ways. Maybe in the end when God’s wrath comes they’ll realize that they’re wrong. God will always be the summit and the fountain of existence. Everything goes back to Him. In conclusion, the account from the book of genesis focusing on the conditions of God together with the supporting details and truth would like to stress the following points:
1. In every decision, God must be the point of reference and the sole guidance to achieve the ultimate good.
2. Sin comes into the world, not from God but from man and freely.
3. Obedience to the will of God, by following his commands and once he sets prohibitions, it must be followed with reverence and total designation of will.
4. The conditions of life in the Garden of Eden and the faults of our first parents vividly shows the reality that the sins they have committed may not be repeated again. We know God in His goodness is merciful but once His mercy is abused, God becomes cruel in order to correct the sinful men, and returns to doing good again.

It was the love of God to our first parents that he did not let them suffer too much. Even God banished them outside the paradise; he still clothed them, as a sign of his unending mercy and love. We too on our part may realize the goodness of God and to value it by not committing the same sin again and again. When we do things out of love, we come to recognize the feelings inside us. All we have to do is to listen, understand, feel and experience God in silence and solitude and let him speak and guide us to perform the summum bonum for ourselves and for others. A good moral judgment tells one how to support other people, directly or indirectly, and what is good for a person is basically what keeps him alive and what makes his life worth living to himself, which is his own self-fulfillment.

Jean Louis Ska, S.J. Creation and Salvation, pg. 34-36.
Rev. Fr. Efren Rivera, O.P. New American Bible. St. Paul’s Publication, Makati, Philippines, 1990.

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