The venue: Garden of Eden, the most beautiful of places that God created
Time: Sometime after creation but immediately before the Fall
Original Actors: God the Father, Adam and Eve
Villain : No doubt, the ancient serpent.
We are familiar with what happened in the Garden of Eden. The serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve, in turn, gave it to Adam also and through them sin entered into the DNA of every human being.
What we overlook in this narration is the sequence of incidents that happened in the Garden of Eden. Was the temptation an instantaneous one? Satan had been scheming a credible plot to trap Adam and Eve for long. So for him, it was a pre- meditated act, and there was not an element of surprise or unexpectedness in his action.
But from Eve’s point of view, she never suspected anything till the moment the serpent approached her with an irresistible offer. We cannot infer that, in the absence of a temptation, Eve was inclined to sin. For her, and also for Adam, the temptation was something unexpected, something instantaneous. They were not prepared to face it when it happened. As a result they fell for the lies of Satan.
But, did it happen all of a sudden? It is difficult to believe so. Let us see what the Book of Genesis says about the happenings in the Garden of Eden. We read that the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made (Gen 3:1). This is perhaps the most important aspect to begin with. The tempter is always craftier than his victims. It has been so since the first temptation and it will be so through the final temptation that we have to fight.
Now the serpent enters the scene with a seemingly innocuous question addressed to Eve. “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Eve was not surprised at it because it was such a casual question. Would you be surprised if somebody visits your farm and enquires about the fruits and vegetables produced there?
So it was the first step. Just a casual enquiry about the state of things there. Eve was honest to the point that she revealed the truth. God had granted them permission to enjoy the fruits of all the trees barring one; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She reminded the serpent about the warning of God that if they ate of it they should die. Eve was very much concerned about the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, to the extent that she made it a point not even to touch the tree. We know that God’s warning was about eating the fruit only, and nothing was mentioned about the ‘side effects’ of touching it. Yet Adam and Eve, as a measure of abundant precaution avoided touching the tree.
Step two: The serpent convinces Eve by telling that they were not going to die by simply eating a fruit. After all, all other fruits were allowed to them. God is not such a cruel person to deny His children the enjoyment of one particular fruit. The serpent revealed to Eve the hidden benefits of eating this particular fruit. Their eyes will be opened and they will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Step three: Then a thought comes to Eve’s mind. Why don’t we take a chance? If it works, they are going to be like God. They will get ‘immunity’ from the weaknesses and shortcomings inherent in human nature. They will be elevated to a higher realm where they will be gods. The offer was really attractive and irresistible.
Step four: Eve starts to experience a feeling that was hitherto unknown to her. She ‘saw that the tree was good for food,and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise’ (Gen 3:6). Till that moment she was seeing this tree as something to be afraid of, something that should not even be touched! Then what made the difference? It was the powerful exhortation of the tempter, laced with the ‘benefits’ of receiving an unnecessary, unwarranted and harmful prescription. On his part, he knew that his prescription was a sure failure! But then, his intention was not the wellbeing of Eve and Adam! When you hear somebody saying too many good words about something, be careful. He is trying to sell you something that is harmful to you. To distinguish the good from evil what we need is discernment. There are no shortcuts to escape evil.
This is why Jesus reminds us to be ‘as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’ Eve, like many of us, was innocent. But like most of us, she was not wise either. Wisdom is one thing that is becoming dearer these days,and as the Scripture says, blessed are they who find her.
Step five : Eve actually eats the forbidden fruit without consulting anybody. She could have taken a second opinion from her husband before accepting the harmful prescription of the serpent. She could have waited a little more, because ‘the Lord God was coming to the garden at the time of the evening breeze’. She could have asked the counsel of the Most High. But none of these options seems to have come to Eve’s mind at that time.
Step six: Eve gives the fruit to her husband as well and he also eats it. He could have asked Eve what exactly transpired between her and the serpent during the short period when he was absent from the scene. He could have refused to eat it. He could have waited for God’s arrival at the time of evening breeze. But nothing happened. Eve gave
and Adam accepted, Eve ate and so did Adam.
Next few verses are about the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit. Their eyes were opened, but contrary to their expectation they found themselves to be naked. They hid themselves from the presence of the Lord. Then comes the most unpleasant part of the story. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden. We will skip the details and instead return to step six.
We can see that at step five, the actions of Eve reach a point from which return was impossible. Similarly at step six, Adam also commits the irreversible mistake of eating the forbidden fruit. Now they have nothing but the wrath of God to expect. What is it that differentiates the first four steps from the last two? As long as they were in the first four stages, they could say ‘no’ at any time. They were endowed with free will, the most precious gift God gave them. But the moment they crossed this threshold, there was no looking back, there was no going back because they took the decision to go against God’s word by misusing their free will.
This is how Satan works. It is not his habit to make someone commit an offense or crime all of a sudden. He is like a farmer, who sows the seeds, water it and waits patiently for the harvest. First he sows the seeds in the form of temptation, which often looks like virtues. Then he arranges the circumstances required for the seed of sin to produce its fruit, which is nothing but death.
So never think that you are doomed with the intake of the first dose of temptation. It is the test dose with which the devil tries to gauge your natural immunity to resist sin. Never be disheartened even if you have received the second dose of devil’s poisonous prescription. Return to God our Lord and the antivenom is available with our Savior to cure you. Pray for the Holy and Precious Blood of Jesus our Savior to be sprinkled on you so as to save you from all the ill effects of the sugar coated poison of the devil that you received knowingly or unknowingly.
But when the tempter comes to you with booster doses of temptation with attractive offers attached, use your discernment, the lack of which was the reason behind man’s fall. Also, remember that at this stage, you are standing at the precipice of committing a sin. Another step, and you are doomed. Once you are at this stage, be vigilant, be on your guard, be cautious, and be doubtful of everything the tempter offers.
Our immunity against sin is derived from a singular source that we call the grace of God. We can augment this immunity by living a sacramental life and thus being in a state of grace at all times. As such,why should we go for forbidden fruits in the misguided hope of overcoming human weaknesses? With the first two doses of temptation, any man or woman of sound mind could have anticipated what the intention of the devil is. Third and fourth steps are preparing our conscience -voluntarily or involuntarily – to cross the good-evil barrier and shape our mindset to take the ultimate plunge into perdition.
Enough is enough. Say ‘no’ to the devil and his minions who are engaged in a fierce battle to capture your soul. Always remind yourself that the devil injects his venom not in a single dose, but in installments. With every dose, he is a step closer to conquering you. We do not know how many steps are in store for you and me. Eve had the free will to say ‘no’ until before she reached step five. With the fast pace of life as we see today, never think that we will get that many chances.
So be careful, because we are living among wolves, and only a good amount of wisdom will keep us safe. This is not the time to doze. This is the time to be watchful about the doses with which the devil plans to enslave you.
Let us pray for the protection of St Michael the Archangel in this battle.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God,
Thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits,
Who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.