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February 12, 2019: Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Reading Genesis 1:20—2:4
Gospel Mark 7:1-13

“Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”

If you were to ask a Catholic third grader, “What’s the first of God’s Commandments?”, the child might dutifully reply, “I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.” While we might congratulate Johnny for his studiousness, we’d assume he meant we were asking about the Ten Commandments.

Of course, the Ten Commandments first appear in the Book of Exodus. But God gives many commands before that point in the Bible. In today’s First Reading—from the first two chapters of the Bible—we hear the “original first commandment” to His human children, who were created in His Image and likeness. “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” Note that there are two elements to this command, each shedding light on the other.

The first is God’s command to be fertile. In honoring this command, man—male and female—reflect the abundance of God’s own love. That’s why the Church teaches that deliberately thwarting the gift of fertility is a grave offense against God’s loving creation of man in His own Image.

The second is man’s subduing of the earth. The following sentence clarifies the meaning of “subdue” through God’s command to man to “have dominion”. “Dominion” is related to the Latin word for “Lord” (“Dominus”). Mankind’s dominion over the earth is an on-going act of stewardship, caring for God’s creation with respect for God—not man—as the Creator.