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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Original Sin And Its Effects

Original sin is the doctrine which holds that human nature has been morally and ethically corrupted due to the disobedience of mankind’s first parents to the revealed will of God. In the Bible, the first human transgression of God’s command is described as the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden resulting in what theology calls the Fall of mankind. The doctrine of original sinholds that every person born into the world is tainted by the Fall such that all of humanity is ethically debilitated, and people are powerless to rehabilitate themselves, unless rescued by God.
There are wide-ranging disagreements among Christian groups as to the exact understanding of this doctrine, with some so-called Christian groups denying it altogether. Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism and Islam acknowledge that the introduction of sin into the human race affected the subsequent environment for mankind, but deny any inherited guilt or necessary corruption of man’s nature.
However, G.K. Chesterton once commented that original sin is the one Christian doctrine
that is empirically verifiable and validated by 3500 years of human history. His point is that the inherent corruptness of human nature is everywhere evident in human history.
“As a result of Adam’s sin we all enter the world with a fallen nature. This is original sin–the sinful tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts with which we are all born. Thus, original sin is something inherent in us–it is a morally ruined character. The original sin that we are all born with manifests itself throughout our lives in actual sins–the actions, thoughts, and feelings we have that violate God’s moral commandsSo our sinful hearts (original sin) cause us to make sinful choices, think sinful thoughts, and feel sinful feelings (actual sins). We are not sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners.We are all born totally imprisoned in original sin. There is no island of goodness left in us.” -Desiring God Ministries

A basic teaching of our Catholic faith is the doctrine of Original Sin.
The first man and the first woman had this original innocence because God created them that way. Both man and woman in their entire person were completely innocent and the body was itself a witness to this. Although they were naked, they were also mutually free from shame. Remember in the story of Genesis, after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, they hid themselves because they were naked. God then asked them, “Who told you that you were naked?” and they realized that the shame of their nakedness came not from their bodies but from their disobedience of God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. It is in the will that we offend God, when we turn our wills against His own.
Original Sin accounts for the conflict that exists in the world and in our personal lives. It affects us because it alienates us from God and results in sickness and death. It has also caused in us what we call concupiscence, or the tendency to do what is wrong. While we recognize that our human nature, our personalities, are deprived of our original goodness, nonetheless we are not deprived as taught by the reformation theologians, such as Martin Luther. How often we must remind each other that we are created by God as good, and by orienting our will towards God, we can begin to regain that goodness that God wants for us.
Nevertheless, we find in our world great confusion and the effects of sinfulness in the unequal distribution of the world’s resources, war, the inability of nations to assist one another instead of bickering with one another. On a more personal level, we see the great difficulty we have as human beings in getting along with other people. What is it in us that creates these conflicts? It is the effects of Original Sin in our lives.
All, however, is not lost. We must recognize that we have been redeemed in the person of Jesus Christ. While it is true that through the actions of our first parents we lost our original goodness, yet through the merits of Jesus Christ manifested in His suffering, death and resurrection, the alienation between God and humanity is remedied. We have an opportunity to regain what was lost. Although humanity cannot regain our first innocence because of our sinfulness, we are at the same time open to the mystery of redemption, which is accomplished in and through Christ. This means that we can, indeed, regain what was lost. We can become God’s obedient children if only we give over our lives to Him.
How can we accomplish this? We are healed of the effects of Original Sin by being open to God’s grace, which is itself a free gift. We do not merit the grace of God’s presence in our lives. Rather, our participation in the perfect humanity of the Savior comes through our participation in the sacramental life of the ChurchIn Baptism, Original Sin is forgiven and we are given the possibility of living a supernatural life. In the Eucharist, we join our lives to that of Christ, and in all of the sacraments, the presence of the Risen Lord through the Holy Spirit enables us to begin walking the path towards the full restoration of our humanity.
This process, however, is not easy. The effects of Original Sin and the operation of grace, which is God’s presence in our lives, constantly involve us in spiritual warfare. It is a struggle to live a supernatural life, but the final victory will be ours and is assured in the person of Jesus Christ as long as we constantly are open to conversion and change.
Perhaps as we begin the summer, we can recognize the goodness that is ours, and with some leisure time, we can reflect upon the victory that is ours in Jesus Christ. Each day we put out into the deep and are challenged to recognize the great gifts we have been given. Let us also strive to use them by uniting ourselves more closely to the living God.

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