Bishop Drennan’s Chrism Mass homily

The greatest pastoral challenge facing New Zealand today is to keep the distinction between what is essential and what is secondary. We risk substituting God with good things…

Faith continually evolves. How we understand aspects of our faith today is different from a year ago or five or ten.

We grow in insight (cf. Dei Verbum, 8) because our faith is alive in us (not sealed in a box); because the Holy Spirit is at work in every generation; and because our human understanding of God is never be complete.

This Lent I experienced one of those new insights: the first reading of the first Sunday of Lent from Genesis (2:7-9; 3:1-7) struck me in a way I had never thought of before.

It’s the Garden of Eden story: the devil tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Usually the story is used to explain the presence of sin in we human beings: Adam and Eve give into temptation, they eat the forbidden fruit and thus we are a fallen people in need of salvation through Jesus.

That interpretation or focus is of course valid. But this year I found myself asking: why did God say that fruit was forbidden? Why did God not say go ahead, help yourself, after all it was a good thing?

If we widen our focus we come to understand that the reason it was forbidden is not about the fruit itself but about the two trees from which it came; they were reserved to God.

God alone could distribute from them. So while the story certainly explains sin, more widely it explains God’s desire to be at work, and remain at work, in the garden of our lives.

Some might think that the focus on God’s activity, rather than on our sinfulness, is a softer option. But I think that misses the point.

God reserved two trees to himself because Gods’ work among us – as distinct from our good works for each other – is essential. Continue reading

  • Bishop Charles Drennan is the Bishop of Palmerston North.
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