I was recently researching phobias or fear of specific things and the effect that it has on Americans. I found out that according to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 10% of people in the United States suffer from phobias and therefore they are deemed the most common mental disorder in the US. On this list of common held fears there are some we probably recognize and have at least heard of or might even experience ourselves like claustrophobia the fear of tight spaces or acrophobia the fear of heights, but some might make you scratch your head like “sid-on-globo-pobia” the fear of cotton balls or pogonophobia the fear of beards. Near the very top just underneath spiders you’ll find ophidiophobia or the fear of snakes. Now we know that the Garden of Eden was a bustling paradise made by the hand of God and as such—a safe place, but on some level, I think, we can’t help but question Eve just a little—and wonder how a talking anaconda didn’t strike as a tad bit odd. 2
This serpent known as Satan lead her and her mate into temptation through a way of subtlety. He begins by introducing a glimmer of doubt, adds to it a lie, and then makes them feel their weakness. Once the devil gets souls to turn inward—where they focus primarily on themselves—the next step is to create a way of justification for a once recognized inappropriate action now deemed acceptable. God asks his first children to avoid only one thing and they fall not right away, but through this slippery slope this progression that erodes both their trust and love of God AND in the end they choose sin, to reject God and death enters the world.
Fr. Gabriele Amorth in his book, “An Exorcist tells His Story” notes that of all creatures made by God, Satan was recognized as the most perfect being. He tried to understand all of creation, in fact, he thought it was made all for him, but Satan had a rude awakening when he discovered that all was ordered, not toward him, but toward the person of Christ. He rejected God and made it his mission to reap destruction 3
in the heart of every person. We may not see snakes on a daily basis, but is out there working to bring us down.
Adam and Eve—even though they were formed by God, and received His very breath within them they still fell into temptation. The question is how? I think the answer can be found in what Jesus did in our Gospel that they didn’t do back in Genesis…He held onto his identity. He knew who he in His Father’s eyes and therefore he was able to face down any opposition. As the evil one attempts to lure our Lord in the desert he always begins with that seed of self-doubt…IF…”IF you are the Son of God”. Jesus clears through these serious trials—by knowing His Father and believing in His goodness. Rather than accomplish or establish anything on his own or for Himself Jesus chooses to turn back to His Father. In contrast Adam and Eve sin because they forgot not simply who they were, but WHO’S they were, they were made from the Father’s goodness for the Father’s love. They were not made for the Garden, the Garden was made for them, but 4
they justified what they did, by believing that God was less than who they knew Him to be. Jesus endured and suffered through temptation because His love for His Father was greater than anything that attempted to wedge it away from His heart.
We as a people tend to be motivated by fear. Whether we are afraid to lose something, afraid of change, of being hurt, or being forgotten. We are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve and therefore can easily fall prey to cunning works of the enemy, but my brothers and sisters we have been baptized in Christ and so WE belong to the FATHER. This Lent we have an opportunity to know who we are and WHOSE we are by living not as the center of our own universe, but by emptying ourselves of our-self—so that LOVE becomes our motivation as we are one with Christ–knowing our Father–believing in His goodness and living in freedom without fear but with power and glory.