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Fifty Questions on Love and Life

What is Original Sin?

God created man and woman in His image so that they may be happy both in daily human life and as children of God, sharing in God's life and finding fulfilment through an unselfish gift of themselves.

But man, misled by the devil who made him doubt God's word, decided to depend only on himself. He decided to become his own judge of good and evil. Man deliberately turned his back on God, cutting himself off from the source of Love. This is what we call original sin. It's the breakdown in our relationship with God. This breakdown, brought about by the first human beings, has repercussions for each one of us today, in our own lives and in the world around us.

This break with God entails:

  1. Loosing our relationship with God as sons and daughters. For the first time, in front of God, man is afraid and ashamed. Man hides himself: "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid." (Gen 3:10) Man separates himself from God, yet thinks that it is God who distances himself from man.

  2. A weakening of freedom. Man's freedom, having once been used against love, remains, from that time on, torn between good and evil. Human conscience and intelligence become obscured. We do not always know how to use our freedom with coherence and judgement. The will itself, by which we exercise our freedom, is weakened. "I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate", observes St. Paul. (Rom.7:15) Consequently, the will lacks determination and authority. Dominated by different passions and emotions, paralyzed by guilt, our will gives up. And so, very often, this stops our growth in freedom and leads to a disunity deep inside us: man becomes divided against himself.

  3. A breakdown of relationships. Man's decision to rely only upon himself and live for himself alone and not for others spills over into all relationships: we blame others (what happens to me is his fault). An ally becomes a rival and a threat. We become suspicious and afraid of others. This is why one person can be aggressive to another, dominating or evasive. Also, we make use of others for our own pleasure. We do not want to be in need of someone else, but rather we want him to be like us, claiming an equality which refuses that others be different from ourselves. But in the depths of the human heart, the need for love and the call to give of oneself remain unfulfilled. Man lives with this painful contradiction in his own life, in his relationship with God, in his relationship with others. Have we not all experienced this in our own lives?

  4. Our relationship to the created world is equally disrupted. Man, who received the mission to "master" the earth in service of love, is greatly tempted to use this power for himself and claim creation as his own.

But God does not accept this failure. Man cannot restore his relationship with God by himself. God took the extraordinary initiative of sending among us His only Son, God himself, who became man. (This is the Incarnation). In saying 'yes' and in offering His life unconditionally for us, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, freed us from sin. He made it possible all over again for us to live as sons and daughters of God. Every person who welcomes salvation is restored to his true self because he once again becomes the son and daughter of the Father. He is a new creation.


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