CLASS 5-6 – HUMAN SIN AND REDEMPTION THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, TRUE GOD
AND TRUE MAN
I. Human nature, as with all the universe, was made good, but is fallen.
A. As Genesis 1 emphasizes, God made all things, including humanity good. See also Wis. 11:23-26.
1. Men and women were made to
be in the image and likeness of God, of all things in the material realm,
the most like God. See Gen. 1:26-27; Ps. 8:5-9.
2. There was at creation original
justice, which involved, among other things, a harmony of nature with
humanity, an ease at prayer and friendship with God, the ability to
do what is right easily, and a body not subject to death and decay.
B. The Fall of Man marred that original justice and introduced disorder into the world and into human nature.
1. The world
became fallen and rebelled at least in part against humanity and became
disordered. See Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:19-21; See Catechism 402-409.
2. Worse than that, the sin of Adam and Eve introduced original sin into human nature. Original sin is that break from God that in turn causes us to be flawed and act in a manner that is flawed. See, e.g., Catechism 397-401, 418; Psalm 14:1-3. Among the effects of original sin are:
a. Concupiscence, i.e. the difficulty
in doing what is right, which is largely due to the fact that passions
and desire are no longer fully under control. See, e.g., Rom.
b. On a related
point, there is a difficulty at prayer. In general, we no longer
sense God as present to us as Adam and Eve did. See, e.g., Rom.
8:26; Catechism 2725.
c. There is also a darkness of
intellect, a difficulty of thinking clearly especially about primary
things, which comes from the separation from God.
d. Furthermore, due to the separation
from God and the flaws introduced into the natural realm, the human
body became subject to death and decay. God allowed this death
and decay both to warn humanity about the need to repent and to place
a limit on the evils people could do. See Gen. 3:22.
1. A sin is a
word, deed, thought or desire contrary to the eternal law of God.
Sins upset the order that God established and thus offends against the
love of God, whether intentionally or not. See Catechism 1849-50.
2. One should distinguish between evil, sin and blameworthy sin, although the former categories include the latter.
a. An evil
is the absence of any good that ought to be there, whether there is
moral fault of not. Thus, for example sickness, homelessness,
and the like are evils even though there may be no sin attached.
See Catechism 310.
b. A sin
is any action, thought, word or desire contrary to God's will and
thus disordered, regardless of whether the one committing the act is
blameworthy. See Catechism 1849, 1871. Thus, for example,
a desire for evil is sinful even if the person is blameless because
he feels it involuntarily. Likewise, if a person commits perjury
for what he considers a good cause, his action is a sin, even though
he may be blameless if his society has taught him that doing so is acceptable.
Original sin is thus sin even though it is not blameworthy to us.
c. A sin is blameworthy if a person commits it freely and either knows it is wrong or should know that it is wrong. See Catechism 1734-35, 1859-60; see Rom. 7:7-12. Determining culpability in individual cases is sometimes difficult and there is middle ground. See, e.g., Luke 12:41-58.
are also degrees of guilt when, for example, a person acts under great
fear but still freely, or with ignorance that is partially his fault.
D. We may not be personally guilty of original sin, but it does damage our nature. And we are guilty of actual sins committed on our own accord. Both then and now, we are in need of God's mercy, both as individuals and as members of the human race. See Rom. 3:9-26.
II. From the very beginning, God promised a redemption, a promise that would be fulfilled in Jesus.
Right after the fall, before the punishments were given to Adam and
Eve, God already promised one who would crush the serpent's head.
In the days before Abraham, God established a special relationship with
a few people as a first promise of the restoration of all of humanity.
See, e.g, Gen. 5:24, 8:20-9:17, 14:18-20; Heb. 11:1-7.
God began forming the Chosen People with the call to Abraham, through
whom God promised a people, a land and blessings for all nations.
See, e.g., Gen. 12:2-3. The relationship with God came first,
and the law would then be given. See Rom. 4.
After freeing the Chosen People from slavery in Egypt, God gave them
the law at Mount Sinai, and then continued developing the law through
the prophets during Israel's history. Even to other peoples
God gave the natural law, indicating them in the depths of their hearts
what was right and wrong. See Rom. 1:18-23.
E. However, the Chosen
People never could keep the revealed law, nor could anyone else keep
the natural law. Thus, the law paradoxically produced more sin,
but that sin made it clear that another solution was needed. See
Rom. 3:9-20, 5:12-13, 7:13; 1 Cor. 15:56; Gal 3:19-22.
F. Even in the Old Testament, there was a promise of God's cleansing power, although the precise means was not as clear. See, e.g., Ps. 51:13-14; Is. 1:18-19; Ez. 36:25- 32; Zech. 13:1-1.
- As Pope John
Paul II pointed out in his encyclical letter Dives in
Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), the Old Testament used two words
more than any other to describe God's mercy. One word was hesed,
which reflects God's fighting determination to make His covenant work,
despite all human sinfulness, and to defeat the dominance of sin and
death. The other word is rahhamin, the term for a mother's unconditional
love of her children, the seeing of goodness in the child despite all
the flaws. These terms, one masculine and the other feminine,
one more objective and one more subjective, give a sense of how God's
III. Fulfilling these promises and the longings of humanity, the Son of God became man a little over 2000 years ago. Jesus Christ was and is true God and true man.
A. Jesus Christ is
God from all eternity. There was no time when the Son was not.
He is a separate person from the Father and the Holy Spirit, but shares
with them the Godhead in fullness, with no division.
B. At one point in time, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to make the Son a human (i.e., the divine person of the Son of God took on human nature) in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Incarnation.
1. The birth
of Christ was about 4-6 B.C., i.e., within the last two years of the
reign of King Herod over Palestine. Our current calendar is a
bit off due to a slight miscalculation.
2. The beginnings
of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John all recount this fact in different
C. As a human, Jesus
lives, grew in age and grace and wisdom before God and man, worked presumably
as a carpenter, and died upon the Cross. See, e.g., Luke 2:51;
Catechism of the Catholic Church 531-34. He had and has a human
body and soul, a human intellect and will. See, e.g., Mark 14:36,
Luke 22:32. Jesus truly experienced emotions of happiness and
sorrow, compassion and anger. See, e.g., Mark 3:5, 10:21; John
2:13-17, 11:35, 17:13; see also Luke 15:20. Jesus was like
us in every way but sin, and is now glorified as we will be glorified.
1 Cor. 5:20-22; Heb. 4:15.
IV. The Incarnation of the Son of God joined heaven and earth together and glorified humanity.
A. The fact that the Son became man gives us the ability to share in divine nature, knowing that all aspects of human nature are joined to God. As St. Irenaeus said, "The Son of God became the Son of Man, that the sons of men might become adopted sons of God."
- As a result,
all human efforts become in a sense divinized, for they were once shared
in one way or another by God who made His dwelling place among us.
See John 1:14. Whatever Christ took on Christ sanctified.
- We receive the comfort
that God has experienced all suffering with us. We can try to
explain the mystery of human suffering, but finally the only satisfactory
answer is that Jesus joined with us in our struggles. See Heb.
B. By becoming man,
Jesus showed us God's love in visible form. As Jesus told St.
Phillip, "He who sees me sees the Father." See John 14:9.
C. Jesus showed us
the perfect model of holiness in our lives. As Jesus said as the
Last Supper, we are called to love one another as Christ loved us.
See John 15:12. Precisely by seeing the life of Jesus and letting
Him live in us, we can share in divine love.
D. It was by becoming man that Jesus saved us from our sins.
- God could have
simply waived the guilt of sins, but that would have left an imbalance.
It was fitting, that if the damage to humanity should come by the sin
of one man, so too should salvation come from the perfect act of one
man. See Rom. 5:15-21.
V. Jesus' public ministry showed the love of God and the path to heaven in various ways.
A. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of heaven, sometimes by reiterating what was already known but in a bolder fashion (e.g., the two greatest commandments of love of God and of neighbor) and sometimes by turning worldly values upside down, as in the Beatitudes. The Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5-7, is the most comprehensive statement of the principles of Christian life.
- The parables
of Jesus showed the kingdom of God in symbolic terms, emphasizing different
points. Jesus sometimes used parables to make the ways of
the kingdom of God clear in the rich form of literature. Jesus
also expressed some things symbolically so that the crowds who could
not accept the truths yet if spoken plainly would get at least some
of the truth and be encourage to enter into the mystery gradually.
See, e.g., Luke 8:9-10; Catechism of the Catholic Church 546;
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Part III, question 42, article
B. Jesus showed in
His public ministry God's compassion for all peoples, especially for
the suffering and for the repentant. See, e.g., Matt. 9:10-13.
C. The miracles of Jesus are recorded to reflect different aspects of the kingdom of God. Thus, especially in the Gospel according to John, they are called signs, signs of a greater realm.
- Thus, for example,
the turning of water into wine at Cana reflects both the new creation
and the promises of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary to married couples.
See John 2:1-11. And the friends who brought the lame man to Jesus
are an example of bringing those who are lame in spirit to Christ and
the fact that physical acts of mercy show the greater gain of forgiveness
from sin. See Mark 2:1-12.
D. Jesus established the Church while on earth.
- Although the
Church would only become manifest through Pentecost, she began with
the preaching of Jesus. Although the term "church" is
used only twice in the Gospels, Jesus clearly spoke of a church and
established the elements of the Church while on earth. See Matt:
- Jesus authorized
the Apostles, with St. Peter at the head, to guide the Church.
See, e.g., Matt. 16:18-20; Luke 22:29-30.
- Jesus established
each of the sacraments during His public ministry or time with the Apostles.
See, e.g., Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 22:17-20; John 20:22-23.
- Jesus promised
that the Holy Spirit would come to the Church guiding her to all truth.
See, e.g., John 14:25-26, 15:26-27, 16:7-14; Acts 1:8.
VII. Jesus Christ died upon the Cross to save us from sins through showing perfect obedience and love to God. This action of Christ's death upon Calvary gained for us freedom from sin and death.
B. As light banishes
darkness, so the love of God shown in Jesus overcame the guilt of sin,
the perfect act overcame the condemnation due to evil actions.
See, e.g., Rom. 5:15-21.
C. A. One can speculate about whether we could have been saved by another means, but it was most fitting for salvation to come through Jesus Christ's death upon the Cross for several reasons. See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part III, question 46, article 3.
1. God's love for us was shown
in the greatest possible fashion by suffering for us in this ignomious
way. The sacrifice of Christ did not increase God's love for
us, but showed it to us in the most powerful way.
2. This sacrifice hopefully inspires
us to whatever sacrifices are needed for our own salvation and that
of others. See 1 Peter 2:21.
3. There was a great balancing,
insofar as the condemnation of man came through human sins, and
so salvation was to come through a perfect human act. See Rom.
5:15-21. And the triumph of Christ was all the greater precisely
because the devil seemed to have triumphed before it. The worse the
seeming defeat, the greater the victory. Precisely because
of the crucifixion, Jesus received greater glory. See, e.g., John
3:14; Heb. 5:8-9.
4. Jesus gave a greater dignity
to humanity by achieving salvation in a sense from within, so that we
were saved by one like us. And, in all suffering, we are joined
more to Jesus. All innocent human suffering receives its final
meaning by union with Christ.
5. The suffering of Jesus shows
us the evil of sin. What the crucifixion and death of Christ did
to His body and emotions, sin does to our souls. Jesus in a sense,
therefore, became the image of sin for us that we may see its destructive
VIII. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ then restored justice and became the cause of our resurrection.
A. Jesus rose with
a risen, glorified body that was based upon His former body, but now
glorified so that He could go anywhere at will, without the usual barriers
of time and space. See, e.g., Luke 24:31, 36; John 20:19.
He could be recognized by people if He wished, but was not recognized
immediately when He did not wish. See, e.g., Luke 24:16, 31; John
20:14-18. He rose with a real, tangible body, but one now beyond
the realm of sin and death. See, e.g., Luke 24:38-43; John 20:27.
B. Even though our redemption was achieved by the suffering and death of Christ, the Resurrection was necessary. See 1 Cor. 15:14-19.
1. The Resurrection
gives credibility to the Apostles and other witnesses. One may
reasonably be mistaken about an abstract belief or an event from long
ago. But no sane person, or especially group of people, could
believe that they saw a dead man alive again.
Resurrection is the cause of our future resurrection. He is, as
St. Paul says, "the first-born of the dead." 1 Cor. 15:20.
resurrection also manifests God's justice even in this world.
Without the Resurrection, we would believe that there is justice in
heaven, but it would seem that the greatest injustice on this earth
remains forever unbalanced by any good, that God has abandoned the world
to injustice. But instead, "God would not allow His beloved
to undergo decay." Ps. 16:10.
4. Fourth, and
on a related point, the Resurrection assures us that our actions on
this earth are important, that the way we treat our bodies is important,
for there will be a new heavens and a new earth. The Resurrection
refutes a Gnostic notion that this world is evil and that our bodies
are simply prisons of souls.
5. Fifth, the
Resurrection leads us not only to see our life with Christ as being
dead to sin, but also as positively living in the Spirit with the Risen
Savior. We are not only justified by deliverance from the guilt
of sins, but sanctified to live out a life with Christ. Thus,
Baptism is not only death to sin, but a rising to new life. See
Rom 6:3-4; Col. 2:12.
6. Sixth, the
Resurrection makes the Eucharist possible. Without the Resurrection,
the Body and Blood of Christ would be a corpse, which obviously could
not be eaten. Instead, the Eucharist is the risen Christ, giving
glorified life to us from His place in heaven.
IX. Jesus Christ then ascended into heaven after 40 days and will come again in glory to judge all things.
A. Jesus stayed with
the disciples for 40 days after the Resurrection to give them final
instructions and ensure them of the reality of the Resurrection.
But then He ascended into heaven and sent them to evangelize all nations.
He continues to be with us, but in invisible form. See Matt. 27:20.
B. Christ left the Apostles with His presence but not visible presence so that they would now be led be led by the Spirit to bring the Gospel to all nations.
1. By ascending
into heaven, Jesus established the Church in heaven as well as on earth,
and pointed the way there as our final homeland.
2. By keeping
His visible presence from the Apostles, He allowed them to use their
creativity and encouraged them now to rely more on the Spirit for their
mission, while always being guided by His words and example. See
John 16:7-8. They would not be receiving as obvious messages from
Jesus as they did during His 33 years on earth, but rather would be
guided by the Spirit through their abilities to evangelize the world.
C. At the end of all things on this earth, Jesus will return again in glory, in an undeniable fashion. We do not know the time of that event, for such knowledge would reduce the adventure of human life.
1. As the Book
of Revelation describes, up to that point, history will be a series
of seeming victories and failures, but all will be summed up by the
judgment Christ will hand out to all peoples and nations. See,
e.g., Matt. 25:31-46; Mark 13:5-37; Luke 21:5-36.
2. At the final
judgment, the actions of all good and evil, will be revealed, and the
meaning of each person's life and every event will become manifest.
See Luke 12:2-3; Catechism of the Catholic Church 1038-41.
And all nations, from all times and all places, now purified of sin,
will be gathered together in the new and everlasting Jerusalem.
See Rev. 21:15-22:17.
X. Forgiveness of sins comes above all else through Christ, but he exercises that power through the Church.
After His resurrection, Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive
sins. See John 20:23; see also Matt. 16:19, 18:18. When
the Spirit was poured forth upon them at Pentecost, they would then
both proclaim the truth to the nations, and administer the sacraments
to confer God's grace. See, e.g., Acts 2:1-41, 8:4-17; James
1. The sacrament
of Baptism brings one cleansing from original sin, and any personal
sins committed thus far. The physical water is a symbol that truly
confers the cleansing and sanctifying power of God. See John 3:5;
2. After Baptism,
the Sacrament of Confession confers forgiveness of actual sins.
See John 20:21-23. It is essential for Catholics to confess mortal
sins, i.e. those grave enough to break the friendship with God, and
helpful for other sins. See Catechism 1456-58, 1856
3. If received worthily, the
Eucharist also gives cleansing from venial (less than mortal) sins and
strengthens one against future sins. See Catechism 1394, 1436.
4. If Confession is unavailable,
Anointing of the Sick also confers forgiveness of sins. See James
5:14-15; Catechism 1520.
D. Furthermore, acts
of prayer, penance and charity, when joined to Christ, work to overcome
sins. See 1 Pet. 4:8; James 5:20. In addition to accepting the
grace of God offered through Christ, we also act and pray to help overcome
the effects of sin. The words of Christ and the Catechism especially
recommend prayer, fasting and other sacrifices, and almsgiving and other
forms of generosity. See Matt. 6:1-18; Catechism 1434; see also
E. Far from neglecting the moral law because God will forgive us, we are called to a deeper sanctity, knowing the price that has been paid for our salvation. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in Dives in Misericordia, paragraph 157, "In no passage of the gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence toward evil, toward scandal, toward injury or insult."
1. If we truly place our faith in Christ, we will respond by trying at least to do His will. Accepting Christ of its own accord will lead one to want to do what is right. See, e.g., James 1:22-27, 2:14-17. If one truly lives in accord with the Holy Spirit that life will of its nature produce fruits of good works. See, e.g., Gal. 5:19-23.
Once freed from the
reign of sin, one will strive to live in that freedom under the law
of God, rather than be a slave to desires and thus to sin. See
2. We face a choice between the
freedom of the children of God and slavery to sin. To choose
sin and not repent of it is to choose that slavery to sin. See,
e.g., John 8:34; Rom. 6:16-17.
3. If one does not act upon faith,
the faith itself will eventually collapse because of the inconsistency.
See Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49.
F. Furthermore, if one is a citizen of the realm of grace, that membership implies that one will show forth that grace to others, by witness and by forgiveness.
1. The calling is, not only to
live in friendship with God, but to bring salvation to the world, in
part by showing God's goodness through our good deeds. See,
e.g., Matt. 5:13-48.
2. There is a balance in that
we accept the principle of forgiveness by showing forgiveness ourselves.
See, e.g., Matt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35; James 3:13. But, as with God's
forgiveness of us, that forgiveness does not simply mean leaving another
person in sin, but rather acting to overcome the effect of sin in their
lives. See, e.g., Matt. 5:6-7, 18:15-20.
God offers forgiveness to all people. However, each person makes
the choice of whether to accept it and live in His light, or choose
the darkness away from God. See John 3:16-20.