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A Lost Paradise
by Mai-Anh Le
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Meditation on Reading: Genesis 3:9-24; Gospel: Mark 8:1-10

“They ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. About four thousand were there; and He sent them away.” (Mark 8:8-9)

A single woman well into the middle of her life suddenly finds herself alone as a refugee in a new culture, a new land, and playing the new role of “parent figure” to a child that was her younger sister’s. They are innocent casualties of war. Seven days a week she is forced to balance three jobs that doesn’t pay much just to keep their stomachs fed and their bodies warm. As she labors achingly towards the end of each week she wonders if life will always be this hard. -- Perhaps this is not your story, but who among us can’t relate to the sometimes hard realities of life? Isn’t that why we wish for heaven?

The book of Genesis tells us heaven was once on earth and it was called Eden. In God’s original plan the world for mankind was paradise. Life was beautiful just as much as it was easy and joyful. What God orchestrated for humanity was the most splendid and beautiful master piece ever written. There was perfection and balance in energy and harmony amongst all areas of the world. Out of His love and desire to have a personal relationship with mankind, God created man in His image and made him master over all domains on earth. (Genesis 1:27-28) Life for Adam and Eve, and all the human generations to come was to be beautiful and easy, fun and desirable. God made the land fertile so that there would never be hunger. He made it so mankind would also never have to battle with diseases of any kind. Instead of toiling through labor all life long, work would have become a source enjoyment – something performed out of desire rather than necessity. In other words as Scripture describes it, Earth could have been another paradise. But when the first parents followed the serpent and ate of the forbidden tree, they basically also followed him out of God’s grace and out of God’s plentiful Eden. Out in the cursed dry land they lived and labored hard, though it always grew for them “thorns and thistles”. (Genesis 3:17, 18) In toil and sweat they ate of the fruitless land all their days never able to retire to the joys of life. (Genesis 3:19)

As we look around our world today that reality for Adam and Eve in the 1st century of time is still our reality today in the 21st century. Though the life styles and living standards vary from country to country -, though the motivations and necessities might sometimes be at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to the lives of the wealthy compared to that of the poor -, though the comparison of things are always relative at best, – in many different ways aren’t we all still living a labored life in some way today as the first parents did back then? Labor does not have to be a job or career in order to be considered laborious. The stressors and struggles of life, as I’m sure you’ll agree can often prove to be plenty laborious. In many ways aren’t we all constantly toiling over some aspect of our life trying to find happiness and fulfillment, trying to find peace – yet time and time again despite of our efforts, our sweat and our tears at the end of the day that oh-too-truthful void is still there in the pit of our stomach arousing a hunger that can’t be nourished by food and drink? We struggle to satisfy our hunger with the various things this world has to offer – jobs, relationships, material things, stature… but all are fleeting.

Then Jesus came along and told us that the Father would provide our daily bread (Mathew 6:11), and we could now work for Jesus (Col 3:23) rather than for perishable food (John 6:27). Jesus is "the Bread of Life" (John 6:35). He can multiply a few loaves and fish to feed thousands of people (Mark 8:7-9). He can change bread and wine into His body and blood. He has removed the curse of sin. We can lie, deny, and hide from ourselves as much as we want. We can continue to look for the answers in all the wrong places instead of acknowledging that it is the Lord our life is missing and hence the constant labor, discontentment and emptiness in our days. We can even continue to move ourselves from here to there, convincing ourselves each time that the grass is greener on the other side that this sad feeling has no connection to sin, to Adam and Eve, to our personal and our direct relationship with God. But the one we can’t hide, lie, and deny all this to, is Christ.

God can see into our hearts. He knows our needs and feels our pain. As our Father He still desires to establish a relationship with us as He did long ago. This is why He had sent Jesus to pave the way. Christ with His life erased the darkness of sin and replaced in its place true love and light. Our Jesus is our light and our way, and now St. John and Mathew tells us He is also our “Bread of Life.” Let us partake of this life nourishment and be satisfied. Let us search no more for fulfillment is here; He is Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord Jesus, you renewed the face of the earth. Now draw me closer to you so that I may never be exiled from paradise again. For you are the power and glory now and forever, Amen. †

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