Just as I entered the symbolic beginning of life dead-dog sick on January 1, 2018, so we all enter life “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). I know. What a bummer. Catholics are sooooo gloomy. We need to get rid of this original sin jazz and put in happy stuff instead, right? Not so much as you might think. When I go to the doctor for a diagnosis of the weird pain in my chest I don’t want him to affirm me in my okayness. I want him to tell me what’s wrong and how to fix it.
Original sin is what’s wrong with us. Once we know that we can get on to treating the disease. What’s gloomy is the thing itself, not putting a name to it. And when you get what it is, you wind up saying, “But I already thought that anyway.”
Don’t believe me? Let me ask you a question: Do we sin because we are sinners or are we sinners because we sin? An awful lot of people think the easy, obvious and liberating answer is “We are sinners because we sin!” So with some pluck and elbow grease we can just try real hard and improve ourselves because we’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like us!Now there’s nothing wrong with trying self-improvement and we can get better at some things. But the absolutely universal experience of the whole human race throughout all of time, space and eternity is that sooner or later that project breaks down. Usually it breaks down in small ways, sometimes in big ones, but always in some way. And when you push really hard against it, eat right, stay fit, get plenty of exercise and do your very best… you start to discover deep, tectonic plates in the soul where there are giant, broken and misaligned things grinding and smashing parts of your heart and soul in painful ways.