Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Fall of Man (Gen. 3:1-24) (CCC 385-421)

Catechism Class Five

Free will, an ability to choose, includes the ability to freely choose to return God’s love, or the freedom to reject Him and live our lives apart from Him. Thus, the man and the woman were free to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge even though God had warned them not to, "the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die."

However, the man and the woman thought that they could be like gods themselves, that they could then choose their own truth, their own reality, their own concepts of right and wrong. They thought that they could be self-fulfilling and self-sufficient, not needing the true God or other people. Even today, there are many people who still believe this. In doing so, in freely making this choice, Adam and Eve did not become gods, but instead fell from truth into error. And error necessarily leads to more error, until ultimately that you are so removed from Truth and Love, i.e. Life, that you are "doomed to die," and not merely bodily death, but eternal death, that is, Hell.

Before, man could see – truly see. He could see God, truth, and love, but after sin, man’s sight is impaired, his hearing is distorted. Thus, we see that, as with this first sin, one’s own individual sin, which is done by your own free choice of the will, carries its own intrinsic “punishment” -- error leads to more error, until, in your ignorance of the truth, you are in slavery to error and sin and death. By choosing to sin, choosing to set aside the Light and Truth of God, you are necessarily left to fend for yourself in ignorance and darkness, and you will find yourself inadequate to the challenge. And it is that first, original sin that is the root of every other sin.

By sin entering into the world, our entire human nature is corrupted and compromised, our souls are tainted. Our judgment is clouded, our ability to reason is impaired, and the influences and temptations of the world overwhelm us, plunging us into darkness and error and slavery to further sin.

The account of the Fall in Genesis also demonstrates how sin is intensely social. Indeed, this original sin did not affect merely Adam and Eve, but has affected and infected us all, it has left a stain on our being. All sin, both original and individual, affects and injures not only the sinner, but all of us. Sin severs and poisons all relations. After eating the fruit of the Tree, Adam not only tries to hide from God, but the first thing he does when confronted is to blame Eve. What directly follows is Cain’s murder of Abel.

Thus, proper relationships between mankind and God were and are severed by this sin of believing that you are equal to or above God, of believing that you can create your own truth, your own idea of right and wrong, good and evil. A wide gulf of separation between God and humanity was created, a separation between man and love, truth, and life. While hiding in the bushes, instead of being able to see God clearly, the man now saw only leaves and branches. His ability to see God, to know God, to know love and truth, was grievously impaired.

It is a gulf of separation that is so great that man is incapable of crossing it on his own. Moreover, proper relationships between human beings themselves were severed, and instead of living a life of love toward others, mankind has lived a life of selfish self-gratification and exploitation of others; instead of harmony, there is discord. This stain left on us by Original Sin cannot be washed away by human means. Only God can wash us clean, only He can redeem us, only He can reconcile us to Himself -- He who is Love and Truth and Life.

Next: Salvation History

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