Human Sin and God’s Grace
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Theme: Human sin and God’s grace
Lesson: Sin is nothing but an abuse of the freedom that God gives to us to love Him and our fellow man
Text: CCC Nos 385-412, Vatican II GS #13
Scripture: Rom. 5
There are two very powerful forces in the world which has been there from the time of Adam and Eve. These forces are Sin and Grace. Sin is a great force whose fruits are darkness and sorrow; a door through which diverse evil comes to man. Death came into the world through sin, and after death comes judgment and for the ungodly eternal damnation. The second force is the power of grace, the only power that can fight and overcome the power of sin. Grace is a favour, a free and undeserved gift that God gives to man to respond to His call to become children of God and partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life (WIKIPEDIA, 2019). Describing the splendor of grace the scripture says “When law came on the scene, it was to multiply the offences. But however much sin increased, grace was always greater so that as sin’s reign brought death, so grace was to rule through saving justice that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ our lord” (Rom. 5: 20 -21). What a paradox of religion; the more sin increases, the more grace abounds. It is surprising, but that is the sort of benevolent friendship which God offers to man.
Grace infuses into the soul the life of God, heals it of sin and sanctifies it. Hence it empowers the soul to a of life holiness. The Church invites all to prayerfully reflect on the evil of sin and the supremacy of grace in the life of a baptized Christian.
The Reality of Sin
The revelation of God the Father in Jesus Christ did not only reveal the love of God for man, it manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the unlimited nature of grace. The Apostle Paul rightly alluded to this fact when he told the Romans “When law came on the scene, it was to multiply the offences...”(Rom. 5:20). By the law coming into the scene St Paul refers to the new covenant which God would contract with His people (Heb. 10:16, Jer. 31:3). The new covenant definitely is the coming of Jesus Christ who reveals to man the true nature of the love of God. Then man will realize how much unworthy he is of such splendid love, and yet God through the gift of grace continues to bid him to come. The slight confusion in the above biblical expression would be how does law multiply sin?. This flows with the simple fact of what the law does when first it enters into man, which is to highlight his sins. For example a crooked stick placed on a table could be presumed normal, the actual crookedness comes clear when a straight stick is placed side by side it, then the level of the crookedness will be blown to full view. So did the sinfulness of man come in to full bloom with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The eyes and senses of man were opened to the superabundance of God’s love for him. The Church was clear on her teaching on this when she says ‘Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God, we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw... Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another (cf CCC 387).
The one thing God refuse to take away from man is his freedom. A legend has it that at the fall of the angel Lucifer (devil), God repeatedly sent other angels to him saying ‘Lucifer you still have the opportunity to repent and come back to the kingdom’ but the fallen angel Lucifer remained obstinate in his disobedience to God. God is all powerful and could have forcefully brought him to obey, but no, God left him to freely take the decision. God created man in His image and likeness, establishing with him a mutual relationship and covenant ‘If you keep my commands I will be your God and you will be my people’’ (cf Exodus 6:7). In this loving relationship subsists the grace of God which empowers man to do the will of God. The covenant (law) is the insurmountable limit that God placed on man without of course taking his freedom away from him. Man is free to abide by the laws and live or to disobey them and die (cf CCC 396).
The creation of man was not a suddenly for God, rather He took every care before creating him. He put everything in place that will aid the full happiness of man before ever He created man. The beauty of man as a creature of God is that every other thing was created by God the Father alone but in the creation of man, God invited the Trinity ‘Let us make man in our own image, and likeness’ (Gen. 1:26). At the end of these wonderful show of love for man, God only asked that man obey His commands and then enjoy without limit the good things of the earth. However, man constantly disobeys the commands of his creator. Note “Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully divinized by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to be like God, but without God, before God, and not in accordance with God. Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness””(CCC 398 & 399). God however, did not abandon man in this miserable state of life.
Where Sin Abounds, Grace Abounds all the More
Though God did not intervene immediately after the fall, He did make a promise the ‘Protoevangelium’ ("first gospel"): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers (cf CCC 410). From then God began preparing the heart of man for the reception of the promised Messiah. “when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the law, to redeem the subjects of the law…”(Gal. 4:4-5). The entrance of Jesus in the history of man changed the story of man for good. Jesus’ obedient to the Father’s will even unto death reunited man to his creator. Grace is founded on the paschal mystery of Christ; His crucifixion, death and resurrection. Thus the question of evil is to be approached looking up to Jesus who alone is the conqueror of evil (cf CCC 385). Jesus the mediator brings the new covenant which pleads more insistently that Abel’s (Heb. 12:24). Abel’s voice cried out for God’s vengeance but the blood of Christ cries out to God with greater power for purification and atonement (cf Jn. 2:1-2, http:/biblehub.com/commentaries/Hebrews/12-24.htm).
“God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, 'Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more' (CCC 412). This takes us back to the paradox of religion mentioned earlier. It re-echoes the great Exsultet, ‘o happy fault,... which gained for us so great a Redeemer”. The sin of Adam here is announced as a happy fall in the light of what Christ did for man; reconciliation with God. He ransomed man with His blood and paid for him the prize of Adam’s sin, destroying the darkness of sin with His pillar of fire. What a paradox! He wasted away man’s sins and freed him from all defilement and restored grace and holiness to him. A necessary fall which gained for man so great a redeemer, for what good would life have been to man, had Christ not come as his redeemer. Through his death and resurrection, heaven is wedded to earth and man is restored with God; an encapsulation of the triumph of grace over sin, life over death, love over law.
Recall that the first part of the quotation says “When law came on the scene, it was to multiply the offences" (Rom. 5:20) A deeper reflection on the verse will show that sin did not necessarily multiply, but rather the love of God shown so brightly on the real nature of man bringing up to full view his sinfulness, just as letting in a clearer light into a room, discovers the dust and filth which were there before, but were not seen.
Consequently, human weakness becomes a necessary link to God whose grace is sufficient for man despite many sins. Thus Christians are encouraged to keep up the strong, see and take the individual weaknesses as a loving invitation to lean on God who alone is the conqueror of evil. It also affirms the Christian injunction of C.P. Varkey 'be human be holy'. Trust God more and worry less about doing His will so much so that you become too afraid to do even the required good.
God exhorts His faithful especially at this period of Lent to come to Him, love Him so that He makes us perfect rather than wearing ourselves out to become perfect before we could love and serve Him. God loves everyone as he/she is.