Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17
With every new RCIA class, someone always asks the question: "What was so bad about Adam and Eve eating an apple that would cause God to punish them so severely?" A variation on that question is: Are Catholics who disobeyed the Church many years ago by eating a hotdog on Friday really burning in hell? The corollary is this: Who can love a God (Church) who is so unjust as to level the same eternal condemnation against cruel, evil people and on hotdog eaters?
The answer is, of course, that there nothing inherently wrong in eating apples or hotdogs; and God is not petty and unjust.
God gave Adam and Eve breathtaking freedom in the Garden of Eden. But this was not unlimited freedom, another word for anarchy. With their freedom came limits. God asked our first parents – and us – to obey him and respect those limits. When we disobey, we suffer the consequences; we punish ourselves.
True freedom is found only in God; outside of God, there is no freedom. To use our freedom outside of God is fall into the slavery of sin.
Simple example: In the United States, I am free to go anywhere I choose. But when driving on the highway system, I am not free to disregard traffic laws simply because I don’t feel like stopping or slowing down.
Viktor E. Frankl said it well: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Neither apple nor hotdog defile us. All foods are clean. Rather, it is in our response to Christ that we grow and find true freedom.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorasa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.