Foundations of Faith|
Back to the beginning - and beyond - in Christ
Christ leads us beyond original sin to unity with God
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
Last week, we explored how we were originally created to live in
holiness, justice and friendship with God. But, through our own
choice to put ourselves first before God, we separated ourselves
from God and lost the original state of holiness. The separation
left us wounded and flawed, a state we call original sin.
Our plans - our choices, desires, self-centeredness - got, and
still get, in the way of our union with God.
But God's still-unfolding plan had another dimension. We couldn't
find the way back to our original holy union. But God gave us
that way back. It was called Jesus.
We talked about original sin last week, but we cannot separate
the doctrine of original sin from that of the Incarnation and
Paschal Mystery. The three are inextricably linked.
First, the beauty of the Incarnation - God becoming one with
"Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not
absorbed, in him," Vatican II tells us, "has been raised in us
also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his incarnation, he,
the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each
man. He worked with human hands. He thought with a human mind. He
acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved"
(Gaudium et Spes, no. 22).
Christ was like us in all things, truly human. The Incarnation
united God and humanity completely, inseparably. God and
humanity became one. That is why we profess Jesus Christ as fully
God and fully man.
"God comes in the person of the Son of God and takes on human
flesh," says Boston College theology professor Fr. Robert
Imbelli. "But 'flesh' here means taking on human life in its
entirely.. It is human life in all its grandeur and vulnerability
that is assumed."
Jesus took on human nature - as we say, "was made sin for us."
Paul tells us that, "For our sake, he made him to be sin who did
not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in
him" (2Cor 5:21).
Dr. Mary Ann Getty of Saint Vincent College explains "being made
sin" in this way: "For our sakes God made the sinless one sin so
that redemption could penetrate the darkest, most forbidding,
isolated, and inhuman part of our human experience. This was so
that God, in Christ, could bring us to holiness."
Christ did not know sin - and did not have original sin - but he
knew in his own experiences, in his own body, the effects of
original sin. Through him, God took part in the pain, alienation,
weakness and vulnerability that are the consequences of original
"In its various forms - material deprivation, unjust oppression,
physical and psychological illness and death - human misery is
the obvious sign of the inherited condition of frailty and need
for salvation in which man finds himself as a consequence of
original sin. This misery elicited the compassion of Christ the
Savior, who willingly took it upon himself." (CCC, 2448)
Through the incarnation, by willingly taking human nature upon
himself, Jesus became "the new Adam" (Ad Gentes, 1:3). But he is
not like the old Adam in his relationship to God. As Paul reminds
us, Jesus "did not regard equality with God something to be
grasped at" (Ph 2:6). Adam did grasp and by doing so he, and his
descendants, "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. All subsequent sin would be disobedience
toward God and lack of trust in his goodness" (CCC. no. 397).
And that is where Christ, like us in every way but sin, truly
became the new Adam. He obeyed and trusted in God's goodness, to
the point of the cross itself. There, on Calvary, Christ took
human vulnerability - all the weaknesses and experiences that
lead to pain and suffering, that human condition that is the
result of the state of original sin - most completely into his
own humanity. There - through the mystery we call Paschal - he
transformed the human condition, not only restoring original
blessing but resurrecting it into something completely new.
Not only is original sin destroyed and our original blessed state
restored through Christ's Paschal Mystery of death, resurrection
and ascension to God, but that blessed state is transformed into
something never seen before - glorified humanity and a new
In our first blessing, our original justice and holiness, we were
created to be one with God. We were intimate friends of God, but
we were still creatures, created beings. Now, through Christ's
Incarnation and Pascal Mystery, our humanity was transformed into
"The Word became flesh to make us 'partakers in the divine
nature.' For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God
became the Son of man; so that man, by entering into communion
with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a
son of God The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us
sharers in his divinity assumed our nature so that he, made man,
might make men gods" (no. 460).
Through Christ, by the power of the Spirit poured out on us in
Baptism, we are called to share in the divinity of Christ. "We
are restored to his likeness by grace," the cathechism tells us,
"and we must respond to this grace" (no. 2784).
Responding to that grace means seeking to conform ourselves to
the humanity of Christ. The ability to conform ourselves to
Christ is God's free gift through the Spirit. The more we accept
the gift and allow the Spirit to conform our lives to Christ
example - to Christ's humanity - the more Christ takes that
humanity, that oneness with his own flesh - and transforms it
into his own divinity.
God allows us, through his beloved Son, to become at one with the
Trinity that is a circle of self-giving love.
That's not just original sin being wiped out. That's not just
showing the way back to original holiness. That's the revelation
of a far more glorious destiny - to become children of God, at
one with the very being of God's only-begotten Son.
We don't become God through our own acts - which the lesson of
Genesis says that humans failed to learn from the start. No,
Christ does this for us. When we say "yes" to Christ through the
sacraments, through the Paschal Mystery, through the Spirit,
Christ transforms us into beings at one with God.
(Sources: The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia; Vatican II documents Ad Gentes and Gaudium et Spes; Catechism of the Catholic Church; The Collegeville Bible Commentary)