The Fall from Grace
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God gave Adam and Eve a life free from pain, sickness, or death. They lived in harmony with all living things on earth. With the gift of sanctifying grace, they knew God as a friend and were confident of eternal life with him.
As with the angels, God tested Adam and Eve. He gave them the chance to show their love and thanks for all he had given them. All they had to do was freely obey God's command. And they had been carefully warned that disobedience would have terrible consequences.
Adam and Eve did not pass the test. Satan tempted Eve with the same desire for power that ruined him: "You shall be like gods." Eve rejected the happiness God had given her and believed the lies of Satan. She was guilty of tremendous pride as well as disobedience. Eve's next action was far from god-like. She convinced Adam to disobey God along with her.
With Adam's act of disobedience God's grace left the souls of Adam and Eve. They had great feelings of guilt and shame. Adam and Eve tried to hid from God. They must have known that this was impossible, but that is what sin makes us wish to do. Even when God spoke the them, they were not sensible enough to confess their sin and ask God's forgiveness. Instead they tried to put the blame somewhere else: "Eve told me to do it." "The serpent tempted me."
It sounds familiar, doesn't it? "He hit me first." "It's mot my fault. She did it first." It is not a coincidence that we behave like Adam and Eve when we have done something wrong. By sinning, Adam hurt not only himself. Having lost God's gifts, he could not pass them on to his children. Just as some people pass on defects to their children, Adam passed on original sin to us. It is called original sin because it was committed at the beginning of the human race, and it is passed on to each of us at our own beginning. Someone might think that it is unjust of God to punish all of us for Adam's sin. But we must remember that what Adam and Eve lost because of original sin were free gifts which God had given them. The life of grace is something to which none of us has a right.
The effects of original sin include a strong inclination to sin. In simpler words, it is easy for us to sin. Our minds cannot control our feelings very easily. Even when we want very much to be good, we often give in to sin anyway. That is why some people say it was "unfair" of God to punish Adam and Eve for one sin. They forget that before original sin, Adam and Eve were not like us. They were in control of their feelings. With sanctifying grace and their great knowledge, they did not really "feel like" doing evil the way we do. That is why the first sin was so serious and deserved such great punishment.
After sinning, Adam and Eve had to leave Paradise and raise their children in a world of pain, exhausting work, and ignorance. They and their descendants would end their time on earth with death. There was no hope of eternal life in Heaven by their own efforts.
But God loved his children too much to abandon them. He promised to send his Son to earth to be the New Adam, the perfect man who would "pass the test" on behalf of all men. Jesus would obediently accept death on a Cross to make up for the sin of Adam and for all sins committed since then. His death would open Heaven to all who had died (like Adam and Eve) hoping in God's mercy. The sacrament of Baptism brings the graces of Christ's death to each of us. Baptism removes original sin, fills our souls with sanctifying grace, and makes us God's children.
Pain and Suffering
Throughout history, man has wondered why there is pain and suffering in the world. All suffering is in some way the result of sin. It is easy to see, for instance, that the pain and sorrow caused by war, murder, hatred, anger, and greed is very much "man-made". But what about earthquakes, floods, and terrible diseases?
Before original sin, man was in control of the natural world. The human body was stronger than any of the tiny organisms that cause sickness. God had given mankind a home that was free from natural disaster. The sin of Adam did more than weaken our souls with the loss of sanctifying grace. In some ways it threw all of nature out of balance, too. That is why we can say that the suffering which comes from the natural world is also the result of sin.
It is sometimes hard to see why God allows so much suffering to go on. But we have to trust that he has a reason. After all, he has shown us his love in many ways, especially by sending his own Son to endure horrible pain in order to save us. God can always bring good out of suffering. It is a bad thing for a man to to lose all his money, but this may teach that man to turn to God in prayer for the first time in his life. It seems cruel and unjust when a baby dies in an accident before it can grow up and enjoy life. But perhaps that baby might never have reached Heaven if it had grown up and turned to a life of sin. Only God knows the reason for the suffering that comes to each of us in this life. But in Heaven he will answer all the questions we may have about it.
Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534
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