The tendency is to blame the woman. Someone says, with tongue in cheek, "The scripture account of creation indicates Adam needed someone to blame his troubles on when God caught him hiding in the garden."
St. Paul, however, points to Adam, not Eve, as the model of fallen humanity. Adam is not God, but he wants the place of God.
Adam refuses to serve God, preferring to be self-serving. Adam is made in the image of God, but he is not content with that, wanting instead to make things over in his own image.
The result of all this is Adam loses access to the tree of life, and death enters the world.
In the second chapter of Philippians (verses 5-11) is a beautiful description of how Jesus recapitulates the fall of Adam. Jesus is God, but he does not insist on his place. Jesus empties himself and takes the form of a servant. Jesus is obedient to the point of death on the cross.
Death cannot hold him because he is God, and he is without any sin. Jesus is able to defeat death.
Jesus opens heaven to us. Jesus is the New Adam, and the cross is the new tree of life.
It is through dying and rising with Christ that we have eternal life. St. Paul said this is what our baptism means (see Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 3:12). This indicates a dying to the old humanity modeled by Adam and becoming, with Jesus, a new, restored humanity.
To be people of faith is to be on a journey toward becoming the people God creates us to be. To do that, we need to stop trying to make the world over in our own image, which is the sin of Adam. We are crucified on the cross of our own desires. That happens daily. This, however, is the way to happiness. Unhappiness happens when the world doesn't conform to our image. If we let go of the desire to have the world conform to our image, then we let go of the unhappiness.
As an example, we can take something as basic as marriage. Clayton Barbeau, a marriage and family therapist, has said, "We marry persons because they're perfect and spend the rest of our lives trying to change them." Unhappiness happens when our spouse doesn't measure up to our image of that perfect person we thought we would marry. Someone tells this one: "After a quarrel, a husband said to his wife, 'You know, I was a fool when I married you.' The wife replied, 'Yes, dear, but I was in love and didn't notice.' "
After marriage, imperfections get noticed. We will remain unhappy as long as we hold on to the image we create of a perfect spouse. We will be happy if we accept our spouse without trying to change him or her. Love is the key. Love is not love until it is given. The familiar verse says, "God so loved the world that he gave ... ." We need to see in our spouse a person to whom to give; not a person from whom to get. Our spouse doesn't exist to fulfill our desires by measuring up to our image of our spouse. Our spouse exists to be loved.
To treat our spouse as if she or he exists to fulfill our desires is to make an object of our spouse rather than a person.
We love our spouse as a person created in the image of God; not as an object that must conform to the specifications of the image we create.
Perhaps it is in the example of marriage that we see the model of self-giving love best. St. Paul, after all, uses this relationship as the image of the love of Christ for his church (Ephesians 5:22-25). We don't have the same degree of intimacy in any other relationship, but all our relationships need to be marked by self-giving love of the other person as a human being made in the image of God. This is opposed to treating others as objects existing to fulfill our desires by conforming to our image. In the process of letting go of the need to have others conform to our image, we let go of unhappiness.
Deacon Scott Watford is
pastoral associate St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church.