Readings: Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38
We could read today’s texts as dogmatic themes: original sin, God’s grace through the Incarnation, the necessity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. I could then look at my life and conclude, “Well, I’m only human!”
But could such a perspective change my life? Isn’t faith much more than dogmatic content or the obedient suspension of disbelief? Doesn’t Scripture describe faith as active and receptive trust in God? Doesn’t faith challenge me to form a genuine relationship with God whom I do not see, through the events, the people, that network of choices that constitute life?
In the refectory I’m enjoying listening to Pope Benedict XVI’s Last Testament in His Own Words. I’d like to share with you one of his theological insights which has been crucial not only to my thinking but for my faith. And it’s a great challenge to my living and choices.
…original sin itself is not a fact in a positivistic sense, observable like the fact that Goethe was born 28 August, 1749. Original sin is a “fact”, a reality, of a different type…Original sin became recognizable in the type of Adam, in his recurrence at the turning points of history. It’s affirmation rests upon the typological identification of every single human being with man-as-such, with average man, with man from the beginning on…*
I grant you, that’s thick. Theological reflection has been known to flow better after the cocktail hour but that’s not on our menu today, not even for a Solemnity.
Our theologian is saying that original sin is not empirical data, a genetic condition transmitted in human generation. It is a theological reflection on our faulty choices. It is tied up with our relationship with God.
The challenge in this is that I can no longer say, at the end of the day, “Well, I’m only human–who could expect me to do any better?” The Immaculate Conception suggests I am being less than human when I fall short. There could be a correspondence of God’s will and my will and it’s as accessible to me–as to Mary–through the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. That correspondence is usually absent in me; there is something wrong with creation as I know it, but is wasn’t made to be like that. Today we celebrate what it was made to be in one fully human life.
Do the limits of my imagination–I’m only human–do my lack of expectations about myself, actually prevent me from being fully human?
*Complete quote from Daughter of Zion (1977) by Josef Ratzinger …one must observe that the concept “fact” cannot be applied, in its positivistic severity at any rate, to original sin. For original sin itself is not a fact in a positivistic sense, observable like the fact that Goethe was born on 28 August, 1749. Original sin is a “fact” a reality, of a different type, known only through typology; the basic text, Romans 5, is a typological interpretation of the Old Testament. Original sin became recognizable in the type of Adam, and in his recurrence at the turning points of history. Its affirmation rests upon the typological identification of every single human being with man-as-such, with average man, with man from the beginning on. Original sin was not handed on in the tradition (and previously communicated) from the beginning as a fact. It has been identified in a theological (reflex) manner through typological Scriptural exegesis. To have missed this truth was perhaps the principal error of the neoscholastic doctrine of original sin. The moment this error was introduced, in whatever degree, in conjunction with the total lack of understanding of typological identification, it led to the questioning of original sin, the impossibility of thinking or talking about it. This being so, it is also clear that freedom from original sin cannot be communicated as a fact; it is only to be recognized by theology, and in no other way.