The Mystery of Sin
Ignoring or casting aside the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth not only leads to a loss of the sense of sin but "empties the Cross of Christ of its meaning" (1 Co 1:17).
Original Sin weakened the disposition of every human being to be loved by God and, in turn, disoriented the free-willed power to love him above all else: "Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart" (Ps 36:3). As a result, the dire effects of Original Sin brought selfish desires, disorderly affections, and unstable emotions to human existence. A dysfunctional inner life, then, is one consequence of the Fall: "Pleasure is preceded by a certain appetite which is felt in the flesh, like a craving, such as hunger and thirst. That generative appetite is most commonly identified with the name, 'lust,' though this is the generic word for all desires" (Saint Augustine).
Since Adam and Eve, respectively, sinned as male and as female, the penalties for their personal sins have been passed on to every particular male and every particular female. Adam desired Eve instead of God and, thereby, lost control over his sexual nature. That loss subjects males to lust after the organs of generation. Eve desired herself instead of God and, thereby, lost control over herself. That loss subjects all females to lust after themselves: vanity.
Furthermore, rather than accuse themselves before God, Adam and Eve made excuses to God. Adam said, "The woman whom you put here with me - she gave me fruit from the tree so I ate" (Gn 3:12). Thus, males are prone to caving into females which is the origin of "wimpiness." Eve, on the other hand, said, "The serpent trucked me into it, so I ate it" (Gn 3:13) Hence, females are prone to mis-speak the truth.
Finally, fueled by self-exaltation, Original Sin is nothing else than despising the authority of God and, consequently, all authority. Thus, males and females, each in their own way, enter fallen human existence as selfish and disobedient persons.
Yet, sacred scripture makes no mention of an essential change in human nature. The vitality of human nature, not its integrity, was lost. Although the cohesion of human nature and, therefore, the unity within the human heart disappeared, the impulse to do good and be good did not: Which one of you would hand your son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you, then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him (Mt 12:35).
Nevertheless, the bulk of human history has followed the path of Adam and Eve and their first offspring, Cain and Abel. Individually and communally, that historical path is a well-worn track of inner discord and social strife. Common experience, in fact, agrees with sacred scripture: "The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed" (Ga 5:17).
The Catechism explains the actual cause of this opposition: Because man is composite, spirit and body, there already exists a certain tension in him; a certain struggle of tendencies between "spirit" and "flesh" develops. But, in fact, this struggle belongs to the inheritance of sin. It is a consequence of sin and, at the same time, a confirmation of it. It is part of the daily experience (Catechism, no. 2516).
John D. Meehan has been involved in the lay apostolate of the Catholic Church since the close of the Second Vatican Council. He resides in New Hampshire with his lovely wife Elizabeth.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Year of Faith, Catechism of the Catholic Church, John Meehan, sin, redemption, Christ, Jesus, Catholic Church, Grace
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