This is my homily for Sunday 24 October 2010 (30th Sunday) for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
****ACKNOWLEDGMENT: I credit Sean Otto for the concepts of original justice mentioned in this homily, i.e., definition of “original sin” as a loss of “original justice”. Sean Otto makes an excellent distinction, saying that original sin (and its penalty) differ from actual sin. Reference: Otto, Sean, “Felix Culpa: The Doctrine of Original Sin as Doctrine of Hope in Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles”, The Heythrop Journal, 2009.
[__01- Agreement & Disagreement / originality- _]
The Pharisee and the tax collector show the difference between the humbled and the exalted. The Pharisee and the tax collector might disagree about many things.
But, I think they would agree on one thing – that originality is valuable.
Originality is valuable.
For example, original ideas make money. A higher value is assigned to an original painting, an original song, original architecture. And, the Pharisee believes he is original. He is the real thing.
What does the Pharisee say about himself? He thanks God that …
“O God, I thank you that I am not [**made / created**] like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous or even like this tax collector …” (Luke 18:11)
For the Pharisee, originality is the dividing line between what is good and what is bad.
But, we believe that originality is not so much of a dividing line. It is also what brings us together.
Originality is our unity. We are all made the same.
We are all made the same, made to be in friendship with God.
But, it also means that, originally, we are all sinners. And, this is what the tax collector is recognizing. But, the Pharisee does not believe this.
[__02- originality of sin / ages old_] We believe that sin has been with us from the beginning of our existence, from the beginning of time.
We believe there is original sin. And, in everyday speaking, we might use original sin to explain things that might go wrong.
[__03- originality of sin – everyday examples_] Why do lock my doors at night? (original sin); why do I have anti-theft alarm on my car while locked in the garage? (original sin); why do I re-confirm a hotel reservation (original sin). Why does the professor in the classroom watch the students during a written exam? Would anyone turn to see another student’s answers? (well ..there is original sin).
We use original sin to explain the things that could go wrong. Thinking this way, however, we may be thinking/feeling as the Pharisee does.
That is, sin is something other people do. And, I need to protect myself from their trespasses against me. Before I even think about “forgiving them their trespasses”, I want to be sure I am safeguarded.
And, this is what the Pharisee thinks.
Original sin, however, is meant to grow in compassion and understanding for each other.
Rather than to divide us from each other.
[__04- original justice & Felix Culpa & made the same_]
“This [understanding] of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" [flips side] of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all … and that all [of us] need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. We [profess] that original sin and salvation [and baptism] in Christ go together. …”
One writer/researcher suggested we might think of original sin also as an absence of peace or justice or reconciliation – from the beginning.
And, “in the beginning” is from the book of Genesis when God is originally revealed.
In the beginning of any relationship – “in the beginning”, when everything is original and pristine, we think that there will be justice and peace and reconciliation. We may even think things are going to be easy.
Consider the beginning of anything:
• The first day of school
• The first day of a new job
• The first date
• The honeymoon
We think things are going to be easy. Then, something goes wrong. Perhaps, I hurt someone or someone hurts me. Or you say or do something or someone does something to you.
And, we lose that original sense of justice and peace and reconciliation. (We may lose confidence that we can work it out. We need a little extra (call it grace) if we are to forgive that person who has hurt us …or if we are to admit we are wrong.)
And, the same was true when God created the first man and woman and gave them all intelligence and freedom. Original sin is loss of this sense of justice.
And, there is no perfect set of laws – even the 10 Commandments – which is going to make them do what they do not want to do.
There is free will for all of us, free to love or not.
So, we believe that Jesus comes to restore our sense of justice and to reconcile us. And, we believe Christ’s grace surpasses what was lost.
And, thus, we also call the first sin (original sin) the felix culpa, “happy fault, the necessary sin of Adam which won for us so great a redeemer.” (Easter Proclamation at the Vigil).
Contrary to what the Pharisee may say, we really are all the same originally and worthy of the same grace. We may have different gifts and talents but we are all the same before God.
And, while “sin” might scare us and even make us walk a little faster in a dark parking lot … “original sin “is also a doctrine meant to bring us hope and remind us we are all worthy of grace and redemption through baptism and the sacraments. And, we can all take up our place in the new temple to pray. [__end__]