What is original sin?
It is the wound in our soul that we inherited from the first human beings, Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve were created by God without sin. Enjoying a perfect friendship with God, they spoke to Him face to face. With all of creation at their disposal, they wanted for nothing. They lived in perfect harmony with God, with one another and with all of nature.
However, as we hear in the first reading, our first parents disobeyed God. When they heard the serpent tell them that they would be like God knowing the difference between good and evil, they were quick to want that power. We hear the heartbreak in God’s voice when He discovers their sin and asks Eve, “How could you do such a thing?” By disobeying, they refused God’s love and chose something other than the Paradise that had been created for them. Therefore, they were expelled from the garden and were forced to work for what had been freely given to them before. The harmony they enjoyed with their Creator, between themselves and with nature was damaged.
Each of us who have inherited our human nature from Adam and Eve also have inherited the wound of that original sin. We feel torn within ourselves because we want to do good but find ourselves choosing evil. Many times we are even confused about what is good and what is evil. Though we want to live in harmony with others, we find ourselves preferring selfishness and greed. And rather than making God the center of our lives, we want to put ourselves at the center of the universe and make our Heavenly Father serve us rather than the other way around.
In today’s feast, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate God’s first step in redeeming us. Like Adam and Eve, Mary was conceived without the wound of original sin. However, unlike Adam and Eve, Mary did not disobey God but placed herself totally in the service of His saving plan. Because she was not wounded with original sin, she was not inclined to selfishness or greed and so was free to say “yes” to being the mother of the Savior. Because of that “yes”, Jesus Christ - the Son of the Most High - could be born to save us. Mary, therefore, became the New Eve, the mother of all those saved by her son, Jesus Christ.
Though we were not blessed with the same grace of being saved from the wound of original sin, we still celebrate this feast because it proclaims a great truth. God is able not only to forgive us of our sin but to give us the power to overcome our sinful inclinations. Through the blood Jesus shed on the cross, our sins are blotted out and by the Holy Spirit He breathed out upon us on Pentecost we receive the power to live good and holy lives. As Saint Paul teaches us in today’s second reading, our Heavenly Father has bestowed us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavens”....so that we might be “holy and without blemish before him.” Though we know that we are weak and sinful people, we are not left without hope. The same God who preserved Mary from the wound of original sin and who sent Jesus to take upon Himself the guilt of our sin, can free us from our sinfulness and teach us to live with freedom and peace.
By God’s power, Mary was the first to enjoy that renewed friendship with God. However, it is also offered to us. All we have to do is say “yes” as she did and abandon ourselves to His plan for our lives. As Mary shows us, it will not be easy, but it is our only hope to live meaningful and hope-filled lives.
So not only do we celebrate what God did in Mary’s life, we also seek to imitate it in our own. Not only is Mary given to us as an example, she is also in heaven praying for us. In our weakness, in our struggles, in our despair, we can turn to her and ask her to bring our prayers to her son, Jesus, who never fails to listen to her.