A two-year-old niece makes many things more fun, but Hide-And-Go-Seek is not one of them. Zippy thinks that if she closes her eyes and can’t see me, then I can’t see her either. Sometimes, to make it more challenging, she puts something over her face as if for a prolonged game of Peak-A-Boo. Or, once I’ve really hidden—behind the refrigerator, or the door, or under the bed—she will hide there herself. Again, and again, and again. Each time, I am supposed to play surprised.
When Adam and Eve hide in the garden after eating the forbidden fruit, God asks “’Where are you?” Surely the omnipotent God already knows. So why does God ask? And why does He follow Adam’s answer with still another question: “Who told you that you were naked?” God wants them to see them as they are, naked and hiding from Him.
In my last reflection I wrote about the strategies of the Opposition Voice, whose goal it is to separate the Father from His children. He does this first by getting them to reject God. His next strategy is to get them to believe that God will reject them.
In tempting them with the forbidden fruit, the Opposition had begun to sow doubt in God’s goodness, and thereby to instill a fear of dependence on God. Adam and Eve are initially tempted to choose self-sufficiency—achieving God-like status on their own, by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Once they have eaten the fruit, the voice continues to promote self-sufficiency versus dependence on God. They seek to cover their nakedness and dependence, and to hide from God rather than trust in His goodness.
As they lose sight of the God in whose image they are, they lose sight of His image in themselves. “Guilt says you made a mistake; shame says you are a mistake” notes Gregory Cleveland, OMV. And so to cover the mistake that they think they have become, Adam and Eve dress themselves in fig leaves.
It is an obvious strategy of the Opposition to make sin appear good, or perhaps necessary, or at the very least, not a big deal. In a more subtle strategy, after our sin, the Opposition seeks to make our sin bigger than God.
After Genesis 3, we don’t get a visual on the serpent again until the Book of Revelation, when the seven-headed ten-horned dragon is at war with the Woman and Her Offspring. But the Opposition Voice echoes through the books in between, spoken sometimes from without, and sometimes from within. The first sin is for man to try to become like God on their own. The second (and all subsequent) sins is to try to become like God on our own.
This is the mistake of the Pharisees, whom Jesus warns against in today’s Gospel. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” He tells His disciples. The disciples are confused, thinking He has rebuked their forgetfulness (once again, they don’t have enough bread). He recalls to them to the multiplication of the loaves, and asks “Do you still not understand?”
He is bringing them back not just to a previous lack, but to God’s providence in that lack. It is God who provides everything. He provides the grace to avoid sin, but also the grace to repent and to return once we have sinned. He is the source of good, and the source of mercy when we are not good.
The Pharisees wish to adhere to a system of goodness based in the Law and traditions; to systematize a way to heaven with ritual and righteousness. They cover themselves with the fig leaves of outer conformity to the Law, but like small children with their eyes closed, they presume that God cannot see the truth within them.
It is not the good deeds of the Pharisees that upsets Jesus; it is their reliance on them, versus reliance on God. At its heart, it is still denial of God’s Fatherhood.
“Where are you?… Who told you that you were naked?” Because man is now afraid and unable to approach and depend on God, God comes to earth as a naked baby, completely dependent on us. And He shows us what dependence on humanity alone will lead to, when He is once again naked, stretched out on the Cross.