For many centuries even pious believers might have pondered why it was Eve rather than Adam who the ancient author of Genesis depicted as succumbing to the tempting serpent. By singling out Eve rather than Adam, the inspired writer intended that Eve should stand not for womanhood but rather for mankind in general. In the act of human intimacy, woman is biologically the receiver. In the spiritual life, God is the giver; mankind is the receiver. The whole human race must open its heart, its soul, its mind, and, yes, even its body to receive the vivifying grace of God who is the supreme and unique giver. Man is the intended and predestined receiver.
Eve’s sin, as Pope John Paul II noted in one of his weekly talks, was that she was not content to be a receiver; so she became a taker. Eve (actually all mankind) was not satisfied with the bounty of Eden that God had given her. The flora and fauna of paradise were not enough. She had to reach out and grab that forbidden fruit, the solitary item denied her by God. The Father had lavishly showered his gifts upon her; she had certainly received a sufficiency. Yet, she wanted more. Not pleased with God’s largesse, she usurped the role of the giver. She began to give to herself whatever she wanted, whatever she desired. She (and thus all mankind) was determined to be a giver, defying her own human nature and denying the divine nature. Original sin turned God’s plan upside down.
Original sin was really an attack on the fatherhood of God. In Eve, mankind listened to the devil and thought he knew more than God. Man was sick of receiving; he wanted to be in charge. Thus man dethroned God and set himself up as the arbiter of right and wrong, of good and evil. Original sin was man attempting to become God. The serpent even promised, “You shall become like God.” Conversely, in Jesus Christ the believer sees the original order of paradise restored. Jesus Christ is completely open to the will of his Father. Jesus is willing once again to receive from the hand of God, to acknowledge the fatherhood of God, to refrain from manipulating history to his own advantage. “Thy Will be done,” is Jesus’ motto in prayer as well as in desperation. Through Christ, God is restored to his rightful place as Father of the universe, as the giver of all good gifts.
Last Sunday’s Gospel depicts a woman who has experienced a hemorrhage for more than 12 years. She has understandably sought a cure from many doctors, all to no avail. In her desperation, the women reaches out and grasps the hem of Jesus’ garment. Perhaps this frantic gesture will assure her of the cure that has been forbidden to her these past dozen years. If she cannot receive, maybe she can take. Jesus senses that someone has taken advantage of his miraculous powers and is mildly perturbed. “Who has touched my clothing?” Jesus inquires of his disciples.
“In fear and trembling,” the woman admits her daring, and recognizes that she has taken things into her own hands and now expects to be chastised for her boldness. Yet, unlike Eve who was punished for reaching out and stealing the forbidden fruit, this woman is commended for her faith-filled attempt to grasp Jesus’ miraculous power. "Daughter, your faith has saved you,” the Master reassures her. “Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
The Christian life is not a passive acceptance of fate. The woman who hemorrhaged would not have been more virtuous had she endured her condition until her dying day. Her desperate grasp was actually an act of faith, whereas Eve’s seizure of the fruit was an act of defiance. The afflicted woman saw the hand of God working in Jesus and fully intended to take advantage of God’s kindness. Eve saw the hand of God working in Eden and was not satisfied with God’s providence. Eve thought she knew better than God, whereas the nameless woman knew she could do no better than to reach out to God and wanted to take advantage of his healing will made visible in Christ. Eve wanted to be God and take charge of her own life, while the woman wanted God effectively to grant a cure that was beyond all human capacity. Eve had pride; the woman had faith. Through Christ, sinful mankind can acknowledge once again the fatherhood of God and receive once more the healing gifts bestowed by his providence.