Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The fall

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published March 24, 2017

Not long ago the first reading at Mass was from Genesis, and it was the account of Eve succumbing to the temptation of the serpent. The serpent succeeds in tricking her into eating a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, telling her that she will then be God-like, knowing good and evil.

Eve tastes the fruit, as does her husband Adam. As a result, they immediately lose their innocence and become ashamed at their nakedness. And they would be banished by God from Eden and know pain and ultimately death.

As I listened to the reading, I thought about the drive “to know” that burns in each of us from the time we are very young. Who has not heard a small child’s persistence in wanting to know the why’s and the what’s of nearly everything? And that desire to know deepens and expands as we grow older.

Knowledge is a gift from God. Through knowing we become familiar with our world, with people, with ourselves. The immense expanse of history can be explored. The galaxies and the stars that burn within them can be seen and studied. The depths of our oceans can be gradually explored and their deep secrets discovered. Yet if we someday come near to knowing all that there is to know and fail to live lovingly as the foundation for all our knowing, it might be said that there is a serpent yet slithering in the citadels of our knowledge—and we like what it is telling us.

Francis Michael gave a homily a few weeks ago, a kind of lead-up talk to Ash Wednesday, and he said that God asks one thing of us. God asks us, he wants us, to be like him. He wants us to be as loving and as good as he is. He wants us to be as self-giving and as merciful as he is.

I listened to those words, too. They moved me and hopefully will stay with me this Lent, a time when we are asked to ponder what really matters in life and to do what we can to live by it. In terms of “giving things up for Lent,” I will try to listen more deeply to God as he speaks to me through others and seek more deeply those places and persons I have neglected to look for him.

This desire of God for us is just one thing: to be like him, in every way. Maybe loving gives us all that we really need to know. And from there, the oceans and galaxies, the peoples of this earth and above all our neighbors, are shown to be what they in fact are: gifts of and revelations of God to be loved first and only then truly known.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at