10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reflection: Evolution of the story Adam and Eve


Eve and Adam. Are any mythical characters better known than they?

For eons, Christians have blamed them for death and evil in the world. That theory leads directly to theologies that focus on sin as the decisive motive for the Incarnation. “O happy fault!”

The story of Genesis 3: 9-15 might be best understood as a fable explaining the origins of evil. For some, the story has a simple moral: God’s creation was perfect until humans messed it up. But after Darwin, we can no longer claim our two primordial parents. Now we know that some 315,000 years ago, people in Africa evolved, developing abilities that distinguished them from other creatures. These skills included an extraordinary ability to adapt, learn collectively and use symbolic language. 

One modern biblical commentary, “The Torah, A Modern Commentary,” suggests that the first couple’s happy fault described an evolutionary leap from innocent indifference to the ability to distinguish and choose between right and wrong. Humans became capable of self-giving love, incredible progress, mistakes and intentional evil. Once started, there was no turning back. When they stepped into the precarious world of free choice, Eve and Adam (Homo sapiens) exited the garden of blissful ignorance forever. Their new consciousness changed everything. Our species could not but continue to adapt and change, and to think critically. 

While Genesis 3:15-19 itemizes the couple’s punishments for breaking the law — a summary list of humanity’s key problems — knowledge of evolution shows that each advance makes life more complex and riskier. In the last 2,500 years, brave prophets have tried to awaken us to the responsibility that comes with our advances. They point out that by choosing to better our interactions with everything around us, we can create a better world. Mark’s Gospel shows us how well that turns out.

Jesus’ preaching and healing made him immensely popular with some and a threat to others. Some believed he wanted to unseat them; others were jealous. Some deeply religious people feared that he was satanic. His own family worried that he was demented. Jesus’ good news was too much, too new and different for many of his contemporaries.

What unsettled both believers and doubters? Nothing more than his core message: “The reign of God is at hand.” That might not sound so bad, but its implications were earth-shattering. When Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news,” he wasn’t talking about sin and remorse. That’s easy.

The Greek word for repent, metanoia (metanoeo), conveys Jesus’ invitation to see everything with new eyes, to discover God’s reigning and to join in. “Repent” invites us to venture into a new stage of evolution, to allow God to lead us into becoming more than we had ever imagined. Large crowds heard that and were electrified because Jesus taught with authority; he embodied the promise and effects of metanoia. Faith in this good news enabled disciples to begin to act like Jesus, going beyond old boundaries designed to keep them safe and pure — and exclusive.

Mark’s story about Jesus and his mother, sisters and brothers presents a parable in action to depict the radicality of metanoia. Jesus’ family, those to whom he had belonged from birth, were looking for him because they couldn’t comprehend what he was doing or how people were responding to him. When he heard that his family had arrived, his response was scandalous: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus’ call to metanoia entailed a rejection of every type of exclusivity, be it family, ethnic, tradition, heritage, classism, sexism or nationalism. In Jesus’ vision of God’s reign, the measure of every action and relationship rests simply on how it fosters or impedes love and human thriving.

Today, many might agree with the family’s opinion that Jesus had gone off the deep end. Although they probably would say it more politely with statements like, “That’s just not practical,” or “But in the real world …”, the message remains the same.

To that, Jesus’ replies uncompromisingly: “Those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness!” Being closed to metanoia, to new insights, to a frightening, but grace-filled and ever-growing relationship with God and others, impedes and denigrates the Holy Spirit. That stance remains unforgivable until a person decides to be open to the newness of grace.

Jesus’ focus on metanoia’s good news suggests that the Trinity’s motive for the incarnation had less to do with sin than with God’s deep desire that we continue to evolve, becoming mothers, brothers and sisters with and in Christ.

As with Adam and Eve in the garden, our evolution and growth will undoubtedly include many falls, but participating in the emerging reign of God makes it worth the risk. 

Reading 1

(Genesis 3: 9-15)

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8)

R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.

R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.

R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.

R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption
and he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.

R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

Reading 2

(2 Corinthians 4: 13-5:1)

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore we speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.
Therefore, we are not discouraged;
rather, although our outer self is wasting away,
our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this momentary light affliction
is producing for us an eternal weight of glory
beyond all comparison,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen;
for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.
For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent,
should be destroyed,
we have a building from God,
a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.


(Mark 3: 20-35)

Jesus came home with his disciples.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,”
and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself
and is divided, he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder the house.
Amen, I say to you,
all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be
forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
His mother and his brothers arrived.
Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”