Romans 5:12-15
Just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned— for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
This selection from St. Paul to the Romans is entirely too short to fully understand what Paul’s purpose is in writing this part of his letter to the Romans.
It speaks of Adam contrasted with Christ.
It speaks of sin and death contrasted with grace, justification, and salvation.
As it says in verse eighteen, which is just past our reading for today, “ … just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.”
While the concept of Original Sin Is implied by St. Paul, it took a long time for the church to come up with the exact phrase of Original Sin. Yet, Paul talks about it in this section, without using that phrase. There are those among our brothers and sisters in Christ who do not like to use the phrase “Original Sin” because it is not in the Bible.
But I think it is important for us to find out what Original Sin really has done to us. Some people have said that it was something that is imposed on us. Rather, I think it is almost the reverse. It is something we did not inherit, namely the Original Holiness that Adam and Eve were created in.
This Original Holiness was lost by them, and they could not transmit it to us who are their children, though many times removed. Pope Saint Paul the Sixth in nineteen sixty-eight wrote an expansion and explanation of the creed that he called the “Creed of the People of God.” In it he said:
“fallen human nature is deprived of the economy of grace which it formerly enjoyed. It is wounded in its natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death which is transmitted to all men. It is in this sense that every man is born in sin.”
Notice: it is something that was lost. We lost the sanctifying grace that Adam and Eve were created with. We lost it because Adam and Eve could not pass it on. So Original Sin is not a sin, in the simplest sense, such as we do because of our own failures, but is a loss of Original Holiness. This phrase, Original Holiness, was something that Pope Saint John Paul the Great wrote about in his day.
But, because of the things Jesus did, we can see the huge difference between:
the work of Adam and the work of Jesus,
the life of sin and the life of grace,
the result of death and the result of eternal life.
As St. Paul says “how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.”
So with this knowledge, the knowledge that Original Sin has been conquered by the grace and mercy of Jesus, we can turn to the words of Jesus in the gospel today that were echoed so many times by Pope Saint John Paul the Great: “do not be afraid.”
Both Jesus and Pope Saint John Paul told us many times to not be afraid. The gospel story today tells us who we are to be afraid of, or more specifically, what we are to be afraid of – namely, having both our soul and body thrown into hell.
This is a risk only for those who choose to reject the grace and mercy of Jesus. And again, I return to what Saint Paul said: “the gift is not like the transgression.” God’s gracious gift is the gift of redemption that comes to us through Jesus.… I know… You have heard this many times, but I think understanding the Original Innocence that God intended us to live in may be something that you have not heard before.
Adam and Eve had it, before they fell into sin. Who is the other human being who had, or has, the same Original Innocence? It is not Jesus, because he is the God-Man. Just as there was an Adam and Eve, so there is a new Adam and a new Eve. Certainly you can guess who I am talking about by now.
We celebrate this great miracle of Original Innocence on December eight with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We believe that Mary was protected in a unique and powerful way, but is still fully human.
One final note with that, Paul said in today’s reading that all have sinned. But we say that Mary was protected from sin. It was a unique and special gift because of her closeness to her son. Yet, in the gospel of Luke Mary says “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
If Mary never sinned, why does she need a Savior? Jesus saved her from sin. The best way I have heard this said, and you probably have heard me say this before, is that the blood of Jesus saves everyone. Mary was saved by the blood of her son as are we. But for Mary, the blood of Jesus worked like a vaccine. For us it works like an antibiotic. The blood of Jesus heals us. The blood of Jesus shielded Mary. All of us, Mary included, have been saved by the blood of Jesus. And this is the gift that St. Paul was talking about: “the gift is not like the transgression.”
Lord Jesus, you have reversed the curse of the loss of our Original Innocence. We can never offer you sufficient thanks for what you have done. Yet you accept our meager attempts at thanking you and praising you.
We turn to you at this time, knowing there is so much unrest because so many people do not understand the condition of their souls. Help us to declare before a world in need that you have reversed the curse of sin and death and restored us as children of your Father.
On this Father’s Day weekend, help all men to stand in the grace that you have given, to be witnesses to this salvation that you have for about, and to help turnabout the weaknesses caused by Original Sin. Make the men of our parish examples of true men of God to the entire family of our parish. Amen.