Q - If Jesus died for our sins, then why didn't original sin go as well? Why is it that we have to be cleansed of that particular sin by baptism when couldn't we just ask for forgiveness?
A - (answered by Kristine Cranley)
Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned …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. Romans 5:12, 15The Catholic doctrine that everyone inherits original sin from Adam even before we are old enough to commit personal sin is a difficult one to fathom in the individualistic world view we find ourselves in today. We moderns often assume that every individual is intrinsically unrelated to every other individual. Thus our choices affect us alone.
But this is a very different understanding of the human person than that which is revealed to us in the Scriptures. While having a deep reverence for the individual, the chosen people had also been taught by God that every individual is at the same time intrinsically related to the whole. This understanding, sometimes referred to by Biblical Theologians as ‘corporate personality’ is difficult to wrap our modern minds around. In essence, ‘corporate personality’ is the belief that an entire people can be represented in one individual. According to the theologian H.W. Robinson
“The whole group, including its past, present and future members, might function as a single individual through any one of those members conceived as representative of it”.For instance, in Hebrews 7:9-10 it states
“One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, was tithed through Abraham, for he was still in his father’s loins when Melchizedek met him.”Wait a minute … Levi was in his father’s loins when Abraham met Melchizedek? But Levi was Abraham’s great grandson. Isaac was not even conceived at the time, much less his son Jacob who would be Levi’s father. St. Paul is claiming here that when Abraham gave tithes to the high priest Melchizedek, all of his progeny was affected by his action. Abraham ‘tithed’ his great grandson in his gift.
In another example, the Lord instructs the chosen people to explain to their children in the generations to come the meaning of the law by stating,
“Later on, when your son asks you, “What do these decrees and statutes and ordinances mean?” which the LORD, our God, has enjoined on you, you shall say to your son, “We were once slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house.”The proceeding generations are not to change the wording to indicate ‘our ancestors’ were once slaves, but rather must insist that ‘we’ were once slaves. ‘What happened to them happened to us’.
It is this belief in the capacity for the one to stand for the whole and the whole to be present in the one which undergirds St. Paul’s entire theology. The defining moment of his life was when the Lord revealed that Paul was persecuting Jesus Himself when he persecuted His followers. “I am he whom you are persecuting”. St. Paul spent the rest of his life meditating on, and teaching about, the mystery of the unity of all believers in Christ, spoken of in theology as the ‘mystical body of Christ’. He writes
“so then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” -Ephesians 2:19-22Not only are believers formed into a unity in Jesus, but because of our common ancestors in Adam and Eve, all human beings are united in one human nature. This understanding of the unity of the human race is what undergirds the church’s teaching on original sin. When Adam sinned, we were all brought into sin. Just as Levi was ‘tithed’ in Abraham, we sinned in Adam.
And yet the unity which led to our downfall is also that which enables our salvation. Christ died to save us all. He died for our sins and in our place. And yet I must first be united to Christ in order to access that salvation. In Adam, my first father, I sinned and merited eternal death. In Baptism I died in Jesus and was born to eternal life through communion with Him.
“Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” Romans 6:3-5.It is only through union with Jesus in His death that we are made free from the sin we inherited through Adam. And yet it is only because the human race is capable of being represented by one individual, that His death can affect each one of us now. Therefore, in response to this mystery of our unity in sin through Adam and salvation through Christ, the Church proclaims exultantly at the Easter Vigil Mass
“O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a redeemer”.RELATED POSTS:
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