12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Even if they seem a little obscure and complicated it is worth reflecting on St Paul's words in the epistle.
Paul, and the Jewish Christians to whom he is writing know that in the book of Genesis God tells Adam that if he disobeys and eats from the tree in the centre of the Garden he will die. They also know that the law of Moses threatens death to those who break the law of God. But Paul is asking, what about all those who lived before Moses but after Adam, they didn't eat from the forbidden tree and Moses had not yet given the law; So, Paul says, death cannot be the result of breaking the law of Moses because it didn't yet exist, therefore it must be the result of Adam’s sin of disobedience. Even though all those who lived after Adam didn't commit the same sin as him, nonetheless they are effected by the consequence of his sin. As Paul puts it ‘sin entered the world through one man and through sin death’. Adam’s sin destroyed the harmony and beauty and love of God’s creation and everyone suffers. There are many analogies: A nuclear power plant explodes, even though they had nothing to do with it successive generations will be effected, a husband and wife have a bitter argument and get divorced, their poor children suffer for the rest of their lives, a greedy business man destroys a beautiful forest to build a factory, now no one can enjoy the forest.
There is a frequent objection to this teaching of St Paul. It all depends on the idea that God created Adam and Eve - but we now know that we evolved, that the universe is billions of years old.
We respond by being precise about what we mean when we say creation. First, God is creator in that God brings something out of nothing. However far back scientific research can take us, even to the start of the universe, the question remains what started this process how did something come out of nothing, our answer is that it was started by something that didn't need starting itself, something that had always existed and that we call God.
Second what does it mean to say ‘God created me’ when we know we are conceived by our parents. The answer is that we believe that at the moment of our conception, when that new life begins, God gives it a soul, gives it a share in God’s nature, gives it the desire to know love and serve God in this life and be happy with God for ever, from my mother’s womb God calls me, God creates me.
Third, this giving of a soul by God at the moment of our conception is a clue to one way of understand the story of Adam and Eve in the context of what we know about evolution. This is only speculation, not Formal teaching of the church. Seeing that creation was good, observing the growth and evolution of the process begun by the act of creation there came a point when God decided to invite that creation to share in Divine life. God places the desire to know him, love him and serve him, and the overarching desire to be happy with him for ever, in the hearts of some early primates thus creating the first men and women by the gift of a soul.
The rest we know. That gift, because it is love, involves free will, choice. Those first men chose against love, against their loving creator ( symbolised by Adam’s disobedience) creation was damaged, the desire to know, love and serve God cannot be fulfilled, happiness for ever with God was no longer possible, heaven was closed. Life becomes a constant frustration ending in eternal death.
The Gospel, the good news, our entire faith, is that in Jesus, creation is repaired, knowing loving and serving God in this life becomes possible, we can be Holy, death becomes the gateway to eternal life, on our behalf Jesus does all that is needed to restore to us the original gifts of God and indeed gives us greater gifts.
As St. Paul says at the end of the epistle ‘the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one mans fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.
That gift is offered through baptism, our new birth our recreation.