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Today’s readings explore morality and faith, but their background comes from a society oriented around the pursuit of honor, the avoidance of shame and the need for kinship. Understanding these cultural anchors can help modern readers find meaning in these difficult yet potentially rewarding passages.

The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” (Gn 3:13)

Liturgical day
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Gn 3:9-15, Ps 130, 2 Cor 4:13–5:1, Mk 3:20-35

Do you often dwell on sinfulness to the detriment of goodness?

Can you see yourself as Adam or Eve from today’s reading?

As you live the Gospel, who has become “kin” to you?

On the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the first reading narrates the first pair of humans and the first transgression against their creator. The setting is almost like a court scene, one where God presents questions to the defendant Adam. “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gn 3:11). This is followed by a declaration that Adam has indeed eaten from the forbidden tree. The conversation stumbles along with Adam’s excuse that the woman placed there with him persuaded him to do the forbidden deed. As the interrogation turns to the woman, in a surprising twist the woman’s response is short, direct and so far, the most honest answer to come forth in comparison to Adam’s shameful avoidance of responsibility. “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it” (Gn 3:13). 

One way to interpret the woman’s answer is to understand the truth behind it. When she says, “The serpent tricked me,” she is not necessarily trying to pass the blame. In fact, she confirms what was already explained to the reader earlier in the chapter, for in fact the serpent was created as the most cunning of all the wild animals that God had made (see Gn 3:1). Can anyone blame the woman for being tricked by the smartest creature in the garden? No. Rather than focus on the transgression committed, the passage reveals at least two points to meditate on. The first point is the woman’s acceptance of her mistake. “I ate it,” she said, plainly acknowledging her fault. The second point is the reality of a radical kinship between everything that represents this garden in paradise. The word “kinship” usually describes ties of blood and relationship within a family. In the beginning, God created all things to live in harmony in the peaceful garden, but in this story, kinship was damaged between the man and woman, between God and all creatures and also between the woman and the most cunning of animals.

The serpent’s punishment puts further distance between himself and the woman he harmed. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers” (Gn 3:15). Paradise was lost when the bond of kinship among all was broken. As Mother Theresa often said, we have forgotten that we belong to one another.

Kinship and its reinterpretation are at the heart of today’s Gospel. The beginning and end of this passage involves Jesus’ family and relatives as a source of opposition and tension to his purpose and identity. They even say of him, “He is out of his mind,” according to Mk 3:21. This is followed by a parable explaining that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, which reinforces the sense of division already apparent in the passage from Genesis. “How can Satan drive out Satan?” (Mk 3:23). Like the garden scene from Genesis, things are upside down if one begins to mistake good for evil and identify what is evil for good. 

The Gospel passage, however, ends with a new orientation for kinship. “Looking around at those seated in a circle he said, ‘For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mk 3:34-35). A new criterion is set in this culture of honor, shame and kinship. Jesus’ newly named disciples and the gathered crowd are his new kin, as near to him as family.

In this light, the readings for this Sunday do not necessarily invite us to dwell on the mystery of evil, nor to dwell too long on this mysterious snake figure that causes estrangement. Nor does the Gospel invite the reader to dwell on the unforgivable sin of slander against the Holy Spirit. Today’s readings are about the restorative goodness of doing the will of God. Those who believe and live out the Gospel will become in God a new family to each other on par with one’s blood kin. In the aftermath of our original broken kinship, doing God’s will allows a path towards reunion.

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