Pope Benedict XVI's catechesis during this morning's General Audience was dedicated to Saint Paul’s teaching on original sin. This teaching is presented by Paul as the relation between Adam, the first man, and Christ, the second Adam, the Pope explained.
The Apostle, in his Letter to the Romans, “traces the basic outlines of the doctrine of original sin,” the Pope began.
"The center of the scene is occupied not so much by Adam and the consequences of sin on humanity, but by Jesus Christ and the grace which, through Him, was abundantly poured upon humanity."
"If, in the faith of the Church, an awareness arose of the dogma of original sin, this is because it is inseparably connected to another dogma, that of salvation and freedom in Christ. This means that we should never consider the sin of Adam and of humankind separately, without understanding them within the horizon of justification in Christ," the Pope continued.
The Holy Father then said that, “Men today should ask themselves: What is original sin?”
Taking stock of current answers to the question of original sin, the Pope said, “Many think that, in light of the history of evolution, there is no room for the doctrine of a first sin. As a result, the question of Redemption and of the Redeemer loses its basis.”
The real answer to whether or not original sin exists requires men to distinguish between two aspects of the doctrine on original sin, Benedict said.
“There exists an empirical, tangible reality, the other relating to the mystery, the ontological foundation of the event. In effect, there is a contradiction in our being.
“On the one hand we know we must do good, and in our inner selves this is what we desire, yet at the same time we feel an impulse to do the opposite, to follow the path of egoism, of violence, to do only what he enjoys even though we know that this means working against good, against God and against our fellow man…This inner contradiction of our being is not a theory. We all experience it every day as around us we see the second of these two wills prevail. Suffice to think of daily news of injustices, violence, and dissipation. This is a fact. From the power evil has over our souls, a foul river of evil has arisen over history, poisoning the human landscape.”
Blaise Pascal, the Pope recalled, spoke of a “second nature,” which puts itself above man’s original nature. This “second nature” makes evil appear normal to man. Evil appears to have become a second nature.
“This contradiction of man, of his history must provoke, and provokes even today, the desire of redemption,” the Pontiff explained.
The Holy Father then turned to reflect on the desire that “the world change and the promise that there be created a just, peaceful, good world is present everywhere.”
“In politics,” the Pope remarked, “everyone speaks of the need to change the world, to create a more just world. This is an expression of the desire that there be a liberation from the contradiction that man experiences in himself.”
“The power of evil in the heart and history of humankind is undeniable, yet how do we explain it? In the history of thought, discounting Christian faith, there exits one main explanatory model with a number of variants. This model holds that human beings are inherently contradictory: they carry good and evil in themselves.
"The faith tells us that there are no two principles, one good and one evil. There is only one principle, which is God the Creator, and He is solely good, without shadow of evil. Hence, neither are human beings a mix of good and evil. The human being as such is good.
“This is the joyful announcement of the faith: there is but one source, a source of good, the Creator, and for this reason, life too is good.
"There is also a mystery of darkness, which does not arise from the source of being, it is not original. Evil arises from created freedom, a freedom that has been abused,” Benedict XVI said. “How has this happened? This remains unclear. Evil is not logical. Only God and goodness are logical, only they are light. Evil remains a mystery.”
“It remains a mystery of darkness, of night. But there is immediately added a mystery of light. Evil arises from a subordinate source; God with His light is stronger. For this reason evil can be overcome, for this reason the creature, man, is curable.”
“Man is not only curable but is in fact cured. God introduced the cure. He personally entered history and, to counteract the permanent source of evil, placed a source of pure good: Christ crucified and risen, the New Adam Who opposes the foul river of evil with a river of light. That remains present in history.
Pope Benedict then reflected on how Advent proclaims redemption in Christ.
“In the language of the Church the word Advent has two meanings: presence and expectation. Presence, the light is present. Christ is the new Adam, he is with us and among us. Already the light shines and we must open our heart to see the light.”
“But Advent also means expectation. The dark night of evil is still strong. Therefore, we pray, in Advent: ‘Rorate caeli desuper.’ We pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give strength to the light and to the good; come where dishonesty, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give strength to the good in the world and help us to be bearers of your light, workers of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!”