Friday, February 10, 2017

Naked Before God

By Colleen O’Sullivan

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.  So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.  When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.   (Genesis 3:6-8)

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.  (Psalm 32:5)

He took (the deaf man with the speech impediment) off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)  And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  (Mark 7:33-35)

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
(Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1779)

The story of the Eden Garden. The temptation of Adam & Eve 
by the devil. Pedestal of the statue of Madonna with Child, 
western portal (of the Virgin), of Notre-Dame de Paris, France, 
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

A lush paradise.  Everything we could ever need.  A God who walks and converses with us in the cool of the evening.  A talking snake.  Fig leaf attire.   All just a myth, people say, as though that somehow diminishes the truth of the story.

But it feels awfully real.  I never get up in the morning intending to sin.  I don’t know anyone who does.  But sometimes during the course of a day, we hear the evil spirit whispering in our ears.  The words don’t sound evil.  But as St. Ignatius of Loyola pointed out, the evil spirit is quite clever at disguising himself as an angel of light. To that first woman, his words sound enticing and good:  You’re kidding me!  God couldn’t really mean you shouldn’t ever eat from that one tree.  Just try the fruit.  You’ll be like a god yourself, knowing all about good and evil.  Well, look what happens.  All of a sudden that first man and woman begin to feel fear and shame, emotions they have never experienced before.  Maybe all that acquired “wisdom” isn’t everything it was made out to be.  They don’t want God to see them in this state.  The only thing to hide behind is a hastily thrown together fig leaf covering.

Forget the fig leaves; they don’t work.  Neither does blaming our actions on anyone else work.  Putting on a pleasant face and pretending nothing has happened is useless.  Trying to hide from God is a waste of energy.  God is everywhere.  God sees us stripped bare, no matter how we try to cover our sins.

Paradoxically, what makes forgiveness and healing possible is taking our broken, naked selves to God, showing God precisely what we don’t want anyone to see – the things we’ve done that have hurt others as well as ourselves, or the good we could have done but failed to do.  In that moment of truth-telling, Jesus reaches out and touches us as he touched the deaf and mute man in the Gospel reading and restores us to wholeness.


Spend a few minutes of your prayer time considering whether there is anything you are attempting to hide from God (or maybe even yourself).  Take the words of the psalmist to heart and confess your sins to God.  God will receive you with open arms, shower you with grace, and clothe you with forgiveness.

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