April 9, 2013

What is Sin?

The Fall and The Good News:  Catechism Paragraphs 386 – 429

“To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God.  386   Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc.   Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.” 387  

“The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.  Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents. 390   Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.  Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the ‘devil.’  The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’  391   This ‘fall’ consists of the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign.  The devil ‘has sinned from the beginning;’ he is ‘a liar and the father of lies.’ (1Jn3:8) 392   The power of Satan is not infinite.  He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature.  It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.’ (Rom 8:28)” 395

“God created man in his image and established him in his friendship.  A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God.  The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust.  Man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.  396   Man, tempted by the devil let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command.  This is what man’s first sin consisted of. 397   He chose himself over and against God.  Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory.  Seduced by the devil, he wanted to ‘be like God,’ but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God.’  398   Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience.  Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.  They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image --- that of a God jealous of his prerogatives. (Gn 3:5-10) 399   The consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true:  man will ‘return to the ground.’ (Gn 3:19) for out of it he was taken.  Death makes its entrance into human history. (Rom 5:12) 400   Even after Christ’s atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians.” 401  

“All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms:  ‘By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners.’: ‘Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned. (Rom 5:12, 19) 402   Adam transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the ‘death of the soul.’  Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.  403   By this unity of the human race, all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice.  Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand.  By yielding to his tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.  It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind.  And that is why original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’ --- a state and not an act.  404   Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendents.  It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, and an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence.’  Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back toward God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.  405   The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world.  By our first parent’s sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free.”  407

“After his fall, man was not abandoned by God.  God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall.  This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (‘first gospel’): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.  410   The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the ‘New Adam’ who, because he ‘became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,’ makes amends for the disobedience of Adam.  Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the ‘new Eve.’  She was preserved from all stain of sin, of original sin, and by a special grace of God, committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.  411   St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, ‘There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good.  Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’” 412  

What is sin?  At the core of sin is a rejection of God and the refusal to accept his love.  This is manifested in a disregard for his commandments.  Sin is more than incorrect behavior; it is not just a psychological weakness.  In the deepest sense every rejection or destruction of something good is the rejection of good in itself, the rejection of God.  YOUCAT Q67


“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal 4:4-5)  422   We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth came from God, ‘descended from heaven,’ and ‘came in the flesh.’  For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’  423   The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him.  From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: ‘We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’ (Acts 4:20) 425   To catechize is ‘to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person.  It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by him.’  Catechesis aims at putting ‘people in communion with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.’  426   Whoever is called ‘to teach Christ’ must first seek ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.’  428   From this loving knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim him, to evangelize, and to lead others to the ‘yes’ of faith in Jesus Christ.  429  

Next time we get into the meaning of the words in the creed: “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,’ and ‘He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary.” --- catechism paragraphs 430 - 483       

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