Man, having been wounded in his nature by original sin, is subject to error and inclined to evil in exercising his freedom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church section 1714)
My formal introduction to religious education began at the tender age of five in 1963 under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Vatican II was still in session and Original Sin featured on the syllabus for the boys and girls in grey plaid wool and serge, sitting attentively (ahem!) in long rows of desks that doubled as shields against Russian atomic bombs.
By the time high school and college rolled around to the Pepsi Generation Seventies, Original Sin was barely a whisper. In the Enlightened Eighties when I was busy turning out little Catholic babies, those in the know a) never spoke those two words together or b) if some anachronistic innocent hinted at such outdated Augustinian teaching, he or she was met with a sympathetic ‘oh, you poor dear, you don't really believe all that, do you? Who pays attention to what fruit some naked couple ate in the beginning of time?
Years ago, I was teaching Baptism Prep to a group of new parents, many of whom admitted that they hadn't been inside a church since their wedding. I was soft peddling Baptism to this group on the fringe of the church—emphasizing community and family history and the long generations united under this big bosomy umbrella of love and kumbaya. A grandmother called me out.
"What about Original Sin?" I fumbled momentarily but I had my answer: we are now emphasizing community and loveydoveyness. She walked out.
Good for her.
We spent a few lost decades building up our self-esteem and choosing things ‘just for me’ and following our bliss and looking out for #1 and deciding we have syndromes so we cannot be responsible for our decisions and our actions. We couched all our faults and troubles and personality defects in terms of "it's all my parents fault" or the catch-all-basket of "society"—eternal cries of the adolescent mind—which is where more than one generation of baby boomers and Gen x, y 's and z's have been encouraged to wallow.
At some point we have to grow up and face facts.
We are sinners.
We are sinners with a positive attitude, assertiveness training and seekers of our very own specialness and empowerment.
Yay for us!
We are now in Lent, thank God. What a necessary antidote to the surfeit of self-indulgence that poisons the air we breathe, the anger and violence, sexual perversions and obsessions that mock the very breath of God that spoke us into being.
Lent is a correction on the dial, keening our ears, our hearts, and our souls to a higher frequency.
Lent is an invitation to quit rationalizing our bad habits, bad attitudes, bad decisions (aka ‘sins’) and wrestle.
Over the years (I am now the grandmother asking the pesky question) I have learned that wrestling is an essential part of Lent. Well, of course, it's an essential part of conscious life, Christian or otherwise, but we are called to take the time during these weeks when the seasons change from bare branches and dark to blossoms and light and exercise this ancient skill.
But facing our sins is an exercise in morbidity if there is no hope of redemption and forgiveness. That's where prayer and grace, discipline and perseverance come in. That's where the Holy Spirit and the sacraments enter. And a very inconvenient command to our spoiled self indulgence to ‘Repent and believe the Gospel’.
May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23
(This post first appeared in Catholic Stand http://www.catholicstand.com)